Swish


Wearing his unblemished green uniform and standing far from the basketball hoop, my nine-year-old son skillfully catches the passed ball.

He suddenly looks nervous.

Not quite the white-tail deer frozen in the beam of a headlight, but close.

Without much thought, he launches an errant shot at the basket. The floating ball misses everything and falls out of bounds--an air ball.

Unfazed, he hustles down the opposite side of the court.

"Let's play some defense guys," I say from the bleachers.
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This is my son's first season of basketball, and he enjoys it immensely.

Being a part of a traveling team and learning the rules took some time to get used to, but he has always been a teachable kid, and has slowly improved his game.

The key to his progression has been dedication.

Every school day at recess, while his classmates play tag or find other ways to entertain themselves, he grabs a basketball and spends his free time shooting hoops. From close and then long, from the right and then the left, he repeatedly fires balls at the basket.

Everything has gone reasonably well, except through the first eight games, he has not scored a basket.

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After a few more missed shots, the boy's coach calls a timeout and the players huddle on their respective sides.
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The gymnasium is not crowded.

A few dozen parents and relatives are scattered on the silver riser seats to watch the youngsters play basketball. Low scoring affairs are commonplace, and if one of the teams total more than twenty points, it is humorously labeled a barn-burner.

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Back to action on the court, the boy catches a ball in the paint. He turns and launches another shot.

The ball bounces twice on the rim, and then falls to the court into the hands of an opposing player.

"Good shot. Hustle back on defense," I say.
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Unfortunately, his practicing has not translated into points as he has struggled with shooting.

Averaging three shot attempts per game, some of the misses have been so close, and others were, well, not pretty.

Last weekend, his grandfather (my father-in-law) attended two games with the hope of seeing his first score. It was not meant to be as no matter how hard the little boy tried, the shots would not fall.

Disappointed but not defeated, my son continued his practice schedule at school the following week, raining shots from all over the court.

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Again, my son is passed the ball.

Nine feet from the basketball hoop, without hesitation, the boy jumps and fires a shot from the left, just over the outstretched arm of a defender.

The ball seems to hang in the air for an eternity; like I was watching a slow-motion replay.

Finally, the basketball falls directly through the net, and the unmistakably sweet sound of a swish emanates through the gym.

He did it. He scored one basket.

Looking up at me while running back, he flashes a smile as wide as a child bouncing down the stairs to the living room on Christmas morning.

I smile back.

He then turns to some of his teammates and says, "Now I need to play some defense."
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All parents want their children to excel beyond their own accomplishments, and I was proud to share that joyful moment with my son.

I have to admit that my first hoop in a game did not occur until I was 13 years old, so he has already bypassed me.

I did learn that it is not necessarily the successful basket, the big win, or the league championship that is the most joyous.

It is understanding the daily practice and dedication that made his personal victory possible.

All of those tiny failures and moments of despair prior to success, when quitting seemed like a reasonable option, were instead countered with courage and perseverance, and are as much a part of the final celebration as the simple swish of the net.

Rewards in this world are short lived as there is always more work to be done--exemplified by how rapidly the little guy's first two-point basket happiness transitioned into new responsibility: "Now, let's go play defense."

I think the experience was a valuable lesson for a father and his young son.

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EPILOGUE:

My son finished this basketball year with 13 total points (6 field goals and a free throw), and at the conclusion, had worked his way into the starting lineup. He is already practicing for next season.

29 comments:

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
This is incredibly awesome. Right now at least three bloggers I know are trying to re-teach themselves that same dedication. I am one.

Please tell your son that he is admired from afar. And,

Way to go, Dad! Score!
Ann T.

The Babaylan said...

Rewards in this world are short lived as there is always more work to be done--exemplified by how rapidly the little guy's first two-point basket happiness transitioned into new responsibility: "Now, let's go play defense."


hear, hear.
truest wisdom. thanks!

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Great job to your son for starting! Coming from a fairly athletic child/teen (because I'm sure not an athletic adult), defense is just as important and offense. I hardly EVER scored when I played basketball or soccer but then again neither did the opposing team. ;)

Aphrodite's Mortal Friend (ME) said...

I love this "The key to progression is dedication" That says soooo much right there- no matter your age or your profession or passion!

Audrey Allure said...

That sounds like great news, and congrats to your son for working so hard for something he enjoys! Practice definitely pays off.

hurstburst said...

The is a fantasticly well written post - I loved it.

My son, also nine, has played in our rec league for three years and has scored exactly once each season. Yet he can set a pick for his teammates better than anyone else on the team.

Bravo to your son on a great season and bravo to you for such a great post!

imbeingheldhostage said...

What a terrific post!! What I think is the really special part is that you were there to share the basket-- and all of the misses. He's a lucky kid.

Luisa Doraz said...

I was in the stands cheering with you on this one! Both of my sons play basketball. They love the sport. One is 20, the other 16. The 20 year old was one who rarely made his shots. When he finally did, everyone was sooo supportive. The other one is 6'2" and looks like a pro! Go figure. I am sooo happy your son is having fun with the sport. That is number one in my book! :)

Alexysc said...

Whether your child succeed or failed is secondary. The most important thing is you were there to watch him playing is already a great motivation and encouragement to him.

LadyFi said...

I think games are best when played for sheer joy and not to win... but it really is wonderful when you can dunk that ball into the net!

Elana Johnson said...

And that right there is the epitome of voracity. Well played, son. Well played! :)

Confessions From A Working Mom said...

You made me tear up!!! I was full of anticipation waiting for his first basket. Bravo! 10 more years, and he'll be playing in March Madness!

~Elizabeth
Confessions From A Working Mom

Laurie said...

I'm glad the Terrill Welch of Creative Potager pointed the way to your blog. That was a wonerful read. Thank you.

Laurie Buchanan
Speaking from the Heart

Elena said...

Excellent...We could all learn from your son ;)

terri said...

Your son seems to know what sports are really all about - hard work, dedication and team work. Basking in glory is a nice bonus now and then, but not the ultimate goal.

I'm sure his dad was a strong contributing influence to that excellent attitude of his! :-)

Krista said...

Aw... your son is MADE OF WIN!!!

Please tell him that a lady waaayyyy up in the frozen north of Canada thinks that he is awesome, and is very proud of him for persevering.

Your writing is fantastic. As I read through this post, I could hear the sounds of parents in the bleachers, sneakers on the gym floor, and ultimately the SWISH!

Thanks for sharing!

CL Beck, author: MormonMishaps said...

That is so cool! Hurray for your son, as he's not only learning to shoot baskets, but that hard work pays off. You must have taught him well!

Selma said...

'It is understanding the daily practice and dedication that made his personal victory possible.'
That is the key to it all, isn't it? What a valuable lesson to learn at such a young age. You must be so proud. A real feelgood, inspirational story.!

Stephanie Faris said...

My stepdaughter has been playing basketball. It's amazing how fast those games go...it's SO interesting to watch...although she's only 10 so they're all still learning.

AB HOME Interiors said...

What a fabulous and encouraging story. How excited he must be!

kathryn said...

LOVE this. What a wonderful post about the importance of tenacity...and how we need to keep everything in perspective.

Kudos to your son for never giving up. He can teach us all a think or two about the rewards of hard work.

makingnew said...

I'm sure your son will look back on these days and smile - my Dad and brothers bonded over many, many basketball and soccer games. Sounds like you guys are off to a good start!

creativepotager said...

Slamdunk, I have finally made it back today for a good read of your post and I'm so glad I did.

I with tears in my eyes, I am so proud of both you and your son. Nice job guys!

Whooo-hoooo! Terrill

jaymiethorne said...

Really enjoyed hearing about your son's dedication. Wonderful writing and capture. Big score for both of you!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Oh, sweet story, Dad. I know very well the anticipation felt while sitting in those stands. "Go in." We sit and wish it into the basket or for the bat to send the ball soaring or for the child to even get into the game. And sports, not only do they bring the physical activity, but so much more.

Momma Fargo said...

Awesome story! Thanks for sharing it. You made points yourself as a great dad.

J. J. in Phila said...

I still remember the day I learned to read. :)

Outstanding post.

Oz Girl said...

Congratulations to your son on all his successful swishes!

"All of those tiny failures and moments of despair prior to success, when quitting seemed like a reasonable option, were instead countered with courage and perseverance, and are as much a part of the final celebration as the simple swish of the net."

How true your statement... our moments of success are often preceded by a long time period of failures, which in the end, makes that moment of success even more sweet and memorable!

Slamdunk said...

Thank you all for the comments as I attempt to write creatively. I'll go back to practing and defense now...