By Dom Cioffi
My son is playing in a couple of spring basketball leagues over the next few months. He has games on Tuesday and Thursday nights and two on Saturday afternoons. It’s nothing serious, but it gets him playing and helps keep his skills fresh.
He’s always loved to play basketball and would easily consider it his favorite activity. Having played and coached the game my whole life, I feel lucky that he has followed suit in his mutual appreciation of the sport.
I’m also well aware that I’ve influenced his interest. People have asked me if I pushed the game onto him and I must acknowledge that there was some nudging happening behind the scenes. I don’t feel bad about it because I believe the sport is immensely rewarding both physically and mentally. But I also point out that a nudge is much different than a push or a force.
Here’s how I nudged him.
From the time my son could sit upright, I had him shooting things into containers. I used to sit on the floor facing him with a small wicker basket between my legs while he sat a couple feet in front of me propped up against some pillows. I would then hand him bean bags and encourage him to toss them into the basket. When he made them, I would light up with excitement; when he missed I would encourage him to aim.
Once he could walk, I purchased a Little Tikes basketball hoop and set it up in the corner of the basement. He would spend hours shooting from around the room or emulating the dunks of players we’d see on TV. And again, I was usually right there with him, lightly directing, but also making sure it was always fun.
I also made sure the daycare he went to had an indoor court. We were lucky to find a local provider who had the use of a church gym where there was an adjustable height hoop that could be lowered for the youngest kids. Throughout the cold Vermont winters, he would spend countless hours playing “basketball” with his buddies.
Eventually, I put an adjustable hoop in our driveway where we would work on skills. I also wanted it there so he could shoot around whenever the mood hit – which it did quite often.
When he was in grade school, I made sure he always played on the school team. However, I learned quickly that if I didn’t get involved as coach, someone else would who usually had a rudimentary understanding of the game. As such, I’ve coached my son’s teams for most of his young career.
In the summers, I’ve always made it a point to send him to basketball camps. These have generally been day camps, but now he’s interested in the overnight options that provide enhanced competition and another level of camaraderie.
My son is now in middle school and playing ball for his school team. This past season he had his best year yet, becoming the leading scorer and rebounder. A lot of this success was earned through hard work, but I honestly believe puberty played a bigger role.
I cannot emphasize how much his boosted testosterone has changed his approach to the game. Where he used to linger outside the three-point line only looking for jump shots, he’s now in the fray underneath the basket fighting for the ball and diving on it when it’s loose.
This added intensity and willingness to play hard, coupled with his years of fundamental training, have now blossomed him into a solid young player and a son who I am
immensely proud of.
This past weekend, he rose to a new level when we visited a public court where he was asked to play a pickup game with some older boys. He initially balked when they asked, but I stepped in and suggested it was a good idea (another nudge).
A quick hoop at the beginning of the game boosted his confidence and convinced him that he wasn’t going to get bowled over by the bigger, stronger players. Ultimately, he played five games and held his own throughout. He was beaming as we drove home, full of energy and excitement about his play and the fact that he didn’t back down when tested. I was just thrilled that he faced a fear and overcame it.
This week’s feature, “Us,” starring Lupita Nyong’o, is about a family who is not only forced to face a horrific fear, but also backed into a situation where they must fight for their lives.
From the mind of Jordan Peele comes another Twilight Zone-ish film that will not only twist your senses, but also have you gripping the side of your chair. But while this film does jack up the horror intensity compared to Peele’s first film, “Get Out,” it fails to deliver the same cohesive storyline that made that picture so appealing.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a good slasher film. Just be prepared to swallow a convoluted storyline that may not make a lot of sense.
A gruesome “C+” for “Us.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]