For the past six weeks I have been refereeing for a boy’s 5th and 6th grade basketball league. Something I decided to do at first for some extra cash and just “something to do” has really been the highlight of my week most weeks.
Since day one I realized I was really going to like it. Seeing these young kids, 11 and 12 years old, just starting out playing a sport that I am so passionate about was such an eye-opener for me. It brought me back to my beginning days. I started to think about which kid I was most like and wondering if I acted the same as them.
It was probably about fifth grade when I finally started showing some promise in the sport that would become my life. I was playing on a rec team, a travel team, and just starting out AAU at that time, and I absolutely loved it. I had a poor attitude, though, and now, as I watch some kids pout, give up on plays, and complain to the refs (me, now, as karma would have it) I start to hope that they will learn to control their tempers.
Then I realize they are on the right track to do so. Sports are really what helped me organize my life. I loved it so in order to do it I always had to keep my grades right. Then in order to actually play, all of my coaches (luckily) insisted I work on my attitude. My college coach even suggested seeing a therapist to deal with what she saw as “anger issues.” Had it not been for caring coaches and a sense of accomplishment and passion for a sport, I don’t know where I’d be.
One of those caring coaches was my dad and just recently he told me about my early days.
“In second grade, the first night you came home from playing, you were really upset because you thought you’d be good at it. So I asked you if you wanted to be and you said yes so that night we did some dribbling out under the street lights.”
My dad also talked about the importance of coaches at that early age, “They have to let the kids have fun and allow them to develop a love for it… if they want to.”
Regardless of how these kids feel right now about basketball, I’m sure they have no idea that it could change their lives. Right now they are just having fun. And I love that honesty about the sport at that age.
My favorite thing to watch is the kids who are just happy to be there; happy to be running up and down the basketball court. I was that kid in the early days; I would sometimes come home crying to my mom that no one would pass me the ball but she’d ask me, “but did you have fun?” And my answer, always, through the tears, was, “yes.” I always had fun playing basketball.
This refereeing has been a nice pause for me during the seriousness of a top Division III college basketball program trying to win in a competitive league. Not only is it a break but it’s a refreshing reminder that basketball IS supposed to be fun. It’s a “sport,” which, if you look in any thesaurus, is another word for “fun” or “amusement.”
To go along with my efforts to be more positive in my life I am also going to try to bring that “fun,” to this team of women who are in the national spotlight. Because if you’re not having fun, then what’s the point?
These kids and my nine year old self could have told you that….