You see he was supposed to make his entrance into the world on April 6, 2008. It was all scheduled and everything, but instead my water broke about 5 am on March 20th and the c-section needed to be moved up quickly. Looking back now, I know why it happened. Thursday March 20th was the first day of the NCAA Basketball tournament that year, and Ben apparently did not want to miss out on any of the basketball games. He was just hours old when he got to "watch" his first game. I do vividly remember, how great it was, when all the visitors and family left so I could finally turn the channel to something other than basketball.
We have had a boy (or 2) playing basketball in our family for the last 9 years. So Ben has literally grown up with it. When he was smaller, and Randy was coaching, he would occasional y "warm up" with the team. His favorite place was always right in the middle of things.
He has been to his fair share of games in his life. But he has been watching and he learned quite a few things from watching players on the court. Plus he loves to shoot.
At halftime, he shoots.
There are 4 hoops in our basement. If he is down there, he shoots.
If he is outside, he shoots.
He loves going to his brother's games, But if he can find a ball, he will sneak out of their games and go to the other gym, and if it is empty, he shoots. You get the picture. The boy loves basketball.
About a month ago, it was sign up time for 3rd grade boys basketball team. I discussed it with Randy and with both of the older boys playing high school ball, we were busy enough. While Ben shoots, dribbles, and plays defense pretty good, he does not get things like double dribbles, traveling, plays, fouls, the out of bound line or playing by the rules. Would it be fair to the other kids to have him go out? Would we have the strength to deal with one more practice and game schedule? Having Ben on the team requires one of us to be involved on the team too. We just weren't sure we were up for it. So the deadline came and went and we let it.
I happened to be at school during the first 3rd grade practice and saw them running drills. I had a touch of remorse. Ben could do drills. It would be great exercise for him. We are always looking for ways for him to interact with his peers. Maybe we should have signed him up? But since the deadline had passed, I let it go.
The next week at the high school game I ran into Coach Dan (who is also their awesome baseball coach). He asked if Ben would like to play on the basketball team. I told him what Randy and I had discussed and that we just were not sure how he would do, or if we were up for it. He said he needed a couple more guys so they would have 10 total and make it easier to scrimmage, and it would be fine if we just wanted to try it to see how Ben did.
So we went to practice. The boys were shooting when we got there and Ben jumped right in. This might not be so bad, I thought. But then it was time to stretch. Ben would not participate. He wanted to continue to shoot and play in the gym and wanted no part of the organized practice. For the next 10 minutes he laid on the floor and cried. I have to admit, I was actively trying to get him out to the car for that 10 minutes that seemed like an hour, and if I had been successful we would have let the door slam and would not try to go back.
Then something amazing happened. They started to do drills. Drills that were somewhat similar to the drills he used to do with Noah's team, Ben got up, and started to participate. He started to do so well I went up to talk with some of the other Moms for a while. Did he do perfect? No. But was it a solid start? Yes. He was doing something he knew. Something he had already been doing for the last 4 years.
Each practice seemed to get a little bit better. He seems to listen pretty good when Coach Dan and Don speak directly to him (not so much when they address the whole team). But he is learning to try new things. I have seen him try to dribble under his leg (which is hilarious), try to dribble 2 balls to half court, and give up during a scrimmage and start doing the same warm-up stretches the high school does across the gym floor (also hilarious). The best part of all is that he is having fun!
This weekend the Knights played their first official games. They played one on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. We did not think he would be able to do all 3 games on Sunday, but he did! He played a few minutes in every game. During the second game on Sunday, he actually got a rebound and took it all the way down the court and scored. He was so proud and so were we. Amazingly, I happened to be filming right then and caught it on video. Here is his shot and a couple other clips of him in action. It should not be hard to pick him out, but he is number 10 wearing white.
I talk inclusion all the time, but I admit, it is hard work. Some days I am just not up to it. But I am so thankful to people like Coach Dan who gave me the nudge I needed to make sure Ben got to play this year. Basketball is his favorite sport after all. It is in his blood.