Basketball Bloopers

What I just witnessed was a disaster. It was literally such a hot mess that it was funny. It was one of those situations where you can’t even get upset. You just have to laugh.  

Toddler Mini Hoops: just the name elicits feelings of joy and happiness… should be a morning full of smiles and laughs while daddy and son sit criss- cross -applesauce and roll the ball back and forth to each other. Maybe a few practice passes and the opportunity to shoot a granny shot or two.

I know my career path has allowed me to study and research developmental milestones of child development and age appropriate activities for children, however I’d like to think that for the most part it’s pretty much common sense when it comes to most things you would ask a toddler to do.

I’m not even talking about age appropriate skills related to a particular sport. I’m talking about simple aspects of everyday life. Like the amount of time you might ask a three year old to attend to a task and more specifically related to today’s incident… how long you ask a child to sit and listen to an aging middle school JV basketball coach while sitting down silently. Listen folks, I’m an elementary school principal, I’m 37 years old and I can’t do any of the above for more than four minutes and that’s even pushing it. As a former Division 1 track and field hurdler I get the difficulty that comes with being an athlete and the work and effort that comes with improving your craft, but this was ridiculous. 

There is no way my “active” (that’s an understatement) can sit quietly while listening to Phil Jackson’s understudy explain the rationale behind using a chest-pass instead of a bounce-pass. Not yet, at least. We’re not there yet. We are at, “here’s how you hold a basketball and let’s try to bounce it back and forth without doing summersaults, licking the gym mats,” or maybe even how about we just complete a two hand dribble and catch with out stopping to lick the floor. How’s that sound?!??! ​​​​ ​​

​  At one point The future UCONN basketball coach asked the children to stand up, and begin dribbling the ball with their finger “pads” without looking at the ball. He then told them to look directly at their parent while they dribble. Tough task no? Even for experienced players it’s tough…. but hang on we aren’t done. The parent is then supposed to flash their fingers depicting a different number every two seconds while the child then calls out the number of fingers being held up in order to keep their head up while they continuously dribble the ball.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to challenge our children, to push them to work harder and to give them the skills they need to succeed to improve.  I know as an athlete he needs to be given the opportunity to practice and that he can’t a trophy just for showing up for practice. But, how about we build some foundational skills first.  

With jaws on the floor we all listened to Coach Auriemma describe the flight path and correct backspin on a bounce pass needed to hit your teammate in stride on a backdoor cut to the basket. All this occurring while my child was running laps around the out side of the gym. Jackson did successfully however steal the ball from the coach without fouling him while he was explaining the children’s homework for the week. I was impressed with the defensive ability of the kid as he swiped the ball from the coaches side, dribbled it with his feet and kicked it into a stray soccer goal off to the side of the hoops. (Followed by the Fragola shirt pull over the head while running around yelling “GOOOAAAAALLLLLL!!!!” (Wrong sport bud). 

​We did get in a little practice of basic, age appropriate basketball skills while Coach Popovich ran a group of screaming toddlers through the weave drill. I guess next week we can look forward to learning the pick and roll (and by pick and roll I mean Jackson will pick his nose and roll around on the floor). 

​”Basketball on three… ONE, TWO, THREE”​

Brothers: Best Friends, Worst Enemies and the Greatest Inventors 

​Brothers are best friends and worst enemies… strongest ally and biggest rival. I know… I have one, I live that so called “sibling rivalry.” I’ve made him eat dirt and thrown him through a wall (literally through) and he broke my nose. I also would want him by my side if there was something going down (unless Chuck Norris or Conor McGregor were available). Now I get to watch two brothers play this game of sibling chess from the outside looking in. 

Everyone gave the warnings, “expect the worst. Jax is going to regress, he’s going to be full of anger and jealousy. He’ll be completely uninterested in the baby… he won’t understand the change. The first time they meet Jax might hit him.” 

There were nerves all around that day in the nursery. We set the meet and greet up w caution and care. It was like setting your best friend up on a blind date. “Dont worry, it’ll be great, he’ll totally get you!” “You guys will hit it off right off the bat.” “Just be yourself and it’ll all be fine.”

Rewind 30+ years ago… I’m told I didn’t handle the situation very well. My little brother didn’t get such a warm welcome upon his entry into this world. But that was short lived. We enjoyed a ton of fun, experienced many life altering situations and caused/got into our fair share of trouble. From snake attacks, to the steam roller, to the babysitter who sprayed potpourri everywhere, enduring bringing home another sibling… this time a sister, to pillow wars on thanksgiving resulting in vomiting turkey and stuffing everywhere… to running the courts in the Bronx with the “neighborhood ‘friends’ who carried knives”… to car clubs and booming systems and holding each other’s blocks at the starting line and winning gold and setting hurdle records togethercollege roommates… well that’s another story. Let’s just say a Britney Spears poster, a comforter and a gallon of spackle saved us a lot of money that year. However, I’m pretty sure the best thing to come out of our relationship was the invention of the Olympic pending sport “All Out Basketball.” Imagine living in the northeast where winter pretty much kills the idea of playing basketball on outdoor courts… even with a shovel and some ice melt… there no way to have a “real game.” Dribbling is impossible, there’s no traction and the backboard can shatter with one erratic shot. 

Enter… ALL OUT BASKETBALL. A basketball based, rugby, football hybrid. It’s designed for icy backyard courts and is best played when wearing boots and 14 layers of clothing. It allows the competitors to combine the best parts of all three sports and is perfect for brothers because of its violent nature. No dribbling and a hoop low enough to dunk like you were Vince Carter in his early days (NOTE: Just for clarification… I could dunk on a 10 foot rim too). The game was played on a shotty shoveled outdoor court and competitors benefited from a slightly deflated ball (we were the Tom Brady of the neighborhood) and often resulted in ripped snow pants and fractured limbs. But it was fun… and Vinny and I are still holding out hopes the IOC will adopt it for the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

Fast forward, back to February 2017… a dimly lit nursery on a cold and snowy (ironic) day. Jackson carefully selected a present for his new little brother and partner in crime. Although his first choice of a Sudoku book, was not the best pick… the blue puppy stuffed animal was perfect. He repeated, “Me hug, kiss baby Ollie.” The whole way down the hallway and up the elevator… although he had time to spell his name and count to ten for the lady who didn’t think he could find the D button for her on the elevator.  

Honestly, I’m not sure who was more excited me the first time I met Rickey Henderson or the first time Jackson met his brother Oliver. The look of excitement and honestly… the look of love was immediate (I say love because I want to believe it was love and not the look of trouble). Jackson presented Ollie with the stuffed animal he picked out and Oliver gave Jax a present too… a recycled Christmas gift that Santa had left behind… an Olaf talking figure. It was love at first sight, and he liked Oliver too. 

The meeting wasn’t long, it didn’t need to be. It was the perfect amount of hugs, kisses and questions. Jackson talked about Oliver the entire ride home, all night and all the next day until he got to hug and kiss baby Ollie again. Jackson met his new best friend and Oliver met his new body guard. As a dad you can’t ask for much more. 

Here’s to hoping these two invent something together as cool, if not cooler, than “All Out Basketball!”