Don’t praise me for doing something extraordinary. I had fun. It was just basketball …
We had a basketball camp at Red Ventures this week for 30 or so kids. Some have epilepsy. Some are autistic. Some are both. They came in a range of ages. They face a range of challenges. But you know what? They were just kids.
I signed up as a volunteer. I don’t play much basketball any more. But I still love the game, and I love showing kids the right way to play. How to throw a chest pass or a bounce pass. How to execute a crossover move. How to dribble with both hands. And one other main thing, which I’ll come back to later.
We signed up for two-hour blocks during the week – a morning session from 9 to 11 or an afternoon one from noon to 2. You could take one session or many. I took two. After we signed up, the times got extended for some of the sessions. Which was a good thing. We got a bit of training. The guy who ran the camp – Mighty Mike – explained his reasoning for it. Turns out he has epilepsy and loves basketball. As a kid, he had a seizure at a camp and got sent home. He was devastated, and he vowed he’d do better.
My first session was Monday afternoon. I picked a group of older kids, because I figured most of the volunteers preferred to work with the younger ones. I connected with them pretty quickly:
- There was Bob, a tall guy who might have been 20. Only his name was really Jimmy. He was a jokester who had trouble communicating; every once in awhile he’d call out: “Let’s go, Bobcats …”
- Joey and Brock were about 14 or 15 – both good kids and hands down the best two players. Brock had come from Ohio for the camp, it turned out.
- Ben also was about that age. Mighty Mike’s whistle really bothered him. Any noise did. He showed me the earplugs before he put them in. He was happier then, though it increased his isolation.
There were other kids that day, too. We ran drills, practiced passing, ballhandling, and other basketball stuff. At the end of the session, Mighty Mike split the kids into teams and they played awhile.
My second session was Friday afternoon, the final one of the camp. Because of a conference call I wanted to be part of, I was a bit late for the session. I walked across the gym a little worried. Ben met me halfway. He gave me a high five. We chatted a little; it wasn’t easy – he still had the earplugs in.
I worked with a group of younger kids this time – many of whom had more challenges. But I kept my eye on some of my kids from earlier in the week. The improvement was spectacular. They weren’t necessarily better players, but they were more confident.
I hadn’t really learned anything yet, though. The final lesson – the big one – came during the final set of scrimmages. I’d been impressed Monday at how the kids with fewer challenges had been helpful with those who struggle. The team I was helping had six players. Which meant someone had to sit out the start of the game. We didn’t even have time to start figuring it out. Brock volunteered. You don’t find that kind of selfless act often.
The game also was a revelation: That other “thing” I like to teach young players is sharing the ball. I didn’t have to with these guys. The best players relentlessly passed the ball to open teammates and encouraged them to shoot. They got some shots in, too, but they seemed to care more – a lot more – about lifting the others. I asked Joey later whether he’d had a good time at the camp. He didn’t have to answer (though he did): His smile told the story better than I ever could.
I had a great time, too. The kids learned about basketball; I got a lesson in unselfishness. I hope I never forget it.
Pleasures: The Guilty Kind
I’m going to indulge in a couple in just a few minutes. The first is getting doughnuts this morning. I don’t need doughnuts, today or anyday. But I like them. And I promised Garrett last weekend that I’d get him some for his birthday (because of his schedule, it didn’t work out to do on the actual day of his bithday). He asked for Krispy Kreme.
But I suggested Dunkin Donuts instead, for a couple of reasons. One, in the aftermath of the controversial Cheerios interracial family commercial, DD had its own commercial featuring an interracial couple. Second, I really appreciated how the company and its employees reacted to that stupid racist rant posted on YouTube. I want to reward it with my business.
Garrett agreed, and I thought that was end of it.
Except Austin stopped by last night. Turns out he and Sam are coming over this morning. He was excited about the prospect of doughtnuts, but he wants Krispy Kremes, too. Because they have lemon-filled doughnuts.
So it looks like I’ll stop at both places. Because I love doughnuts. And I love my kids. So I’ll combine a guilty pleasure with one I freely admit.
I’ll leave with this thought: Is it a cliche to say you hate cliches and then use them anyway? Or is it just arrogance? I think I’ll just skip the answer to that one for now.