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How I Fell in Love With Basketball

Posted Mar 21 2012 12:49am

Refreshing! But I’m pretty sure that’s still a foul.

Group sports have never been my thing. And when I say “not my thing” I mean I was the girl who faked her period for three years before actually getting it, just so I wouldn’t have to play soccer with the other kids. It’s not that I was some kind of rebel. It’s that I was – and still am, let’s be honest – a huge people pleaser. Add to that the fact that I am not a naturally gifted athlete and you have a recipe for disaster. You ready for this?

I got my pants pulled down in flag football. I got hit in the boob so hard with a baseball that I fell over and to this day am convinced that’s why the right one is slightly smaller than her twin. I peed my pants on the track. I got stuck in my gym-assigned swimsuit in the locker room and had to have a friend wrestle me out of it. Tiny shorts were not my friend. I made a very ill-advised step-aerobics routine to Tom Petty’s Last Dance With Mary Jane and almost landed myself in drug counseling. I think I’m the only girl who volunteered to play Powder Puff football that wasn’t allowed to play even a single second in any game. Heck, I couldn’t even handle bowling – I fell backwards and landed so hard on a bowling pin I was sure I’d lost my virginity.

But mostly it was all the snide comments, the sighs of exasperation and always always being picked last for teams – and that includes when the teacher was doing the picking.  ( I had one teacher who used to throw footballs at my head, he was so bothered by me.) By the time I got to high school I was so convinced that I was awful that I would go to any length to avoid anything involving balls. No volleyball, no soccer, no tennis, no kissing tag and definitely no basketball.

Fast forward a decade of my husband trying fruitlessly to get me to play something with him besides Frisbee and I landed with the Gym Buddies. While Allison’s sports history is about the same as mine (sans bowling pin), Megan, Krista, Beth and Daria were all accomplished athletes in their sports. They have fond memories of team spirit, muddy slides to home and spiking the winning point. So it was only a matter of time before they wanted to play again. And, as luck would have it, there’s an open basketball court during our usual workout times.

I refused to even step on the court with them at first. I knew I was going to suck – I don’t even know the rules to basketball! – and I really didn’t want my friends to roll their eyes when I missed the ball, sigh when I double dribbled and eventually discover me for the non-athlete that I am. If this were an after-school special, I’d say that they didn’t do that and totally embraced my awkwardness. But these girls are competitive! It’s one of the things I love best about them. Yes they sighed. There was some eye rolling. The occasional yelling. But they also coached me, encouraged me and cheered when I got it right. (And looked the other way when I double dribbled more than a few times.) It meant even more to me because I knew they weren’t patronizing me. It’s, dare I say it?, fun.

It’s so fun in fact that every Tuesday is now Gym Buddy Basketball day (anyone is welcome to come play with us!) and not only is it a riot – there are so many unprintable ball jokes that we all have to pee before we start playing – but it’s also one of the best workouts I get all week. We play full court when we can and running up and down that thing for 75 minutes ranks right up there with Tabata sprints for sucking wind. Plus, since Tuesdays are supposed to be our Plyocide day for this month’s P90X 2 experiment (going much better now!!), I wrote down all the plyo moves from the video and put them in a cup and after every 10 points we each draw one and do them all in a row. What with all the air jacks it’s like we’re our own cheerleaders too! I get disgustingly sweat soaked.

I still suck – that hasn’t changed. I think today I made 3 shots out of 50. Megan had to tell me to stop dribbling backwards because running forward is faster. Duh. And there’s still a lot I don’t understand. (For instance: you can knock someone over with your butt and that’s called “blocking out” and is totally legal but when I jumped on Megan’s back in a big awkward bearhug that’s a foul?!) But what’s different now is that I’m finally playing with people who care more about me than they do about the game. (Usually.) It’s about having fun first, getting a good workout second and winning third. And also, they can’t bench me because we don’t have enough players for subs.

How do you feel about group sports? Has it changed now that you’re an adult? Anyone else have a tragi-comic gym-class story to share to make me feel better?!

Ah, the old crotch block! Not that I’ve ever tried this one but judging from my internet search this happens a lot more than you’d think. 

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