The Comedy of Seventh Grade Boy’s Basketball

My seventh grade boys’ basketball team finished its season this past week. Yes, I know it’s only mid-November, but our league fits five different sports seasons into a school year. Boys’ basketball begins the first week in October. Girls’ basketball gets rolling the week after Thanksgiving.

Seriously, the time of the year did not make any difference. Our team of 13 boys, several unknowingly wearing some of the girl’s uniforms because the boy’s uniforms were too large for them, struggled at times to understand offenses, defenses, press breakers, presses, inbounds plays, and how to rebound…Wait a minute! That’s pretty much the whole game of basketball!

But they also struggled to keep track of their uniforms, where their water bottle was, not jumping over the free throw line, keeping their shoes tied, and not just running onto the court when they were told to sub in for someone during a game.

After all, they are seventh-grade boys. They are just beginning to experience underarm deodorant sticks, considering the value of combing their hair, and trying to figure out why the Mary Janes are always staring at them and giggling.

Basketball is like a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle for most of them. They can figure out what the border pieces are and gradually which of the four sides each piece belongs on, but the overwhelming bulk of the picture is a mystery that will take a long time to figure out.

Consider this confusing puzzle. With 17 seconds left in the game and trailing by double-digits, one of my players tried to shoot a three-pointer on the opponents pass. The inbounds pass came from underneath the other team’s basket. Thankfully, the shooter didn’t connect on a three-pointer the whole season– and maybe his whole life– and wasn’t close this time either. But after the final seconds clicked off the question occurred to me, why had our four other players on the court also been lining like it was an inbounds play? In other words, all five had been led like lambs to the slaughter into believing they were shooting at the basket 94 feet away from the one they should have been heading.

Consider this confusing, misplaced piece. An hour before our last game one of our smaller players came to me and, with fear in his eyes, said, “Coach, I can’t find my uniform!”

“You mean this uniform that was left on the floor of the locker room two days ago?” Since his assigned number was on the uniform, I knew it was his.

Sheepishly, “Yes.”

Consider this very clear corner piece of the puzzle that is self-explanatory. In our last game, a very close game, the other team had the boy out-of-bounds underneath their basket. Number 40 was killing us all game and our main player had four fouls. At a timeout the other coach and I said to one of our players, “You have #40. Play him man-to-man, Number 40! That’s a four followed by a zero! Number 4-0! That’s who you have!”

The game resumed and number 40 received the inbounds pass right by the basket and laid it to put the other team up by two points with less than a minute left. We called timeout and said to our player, “You were suppose to guard number 40.” He looked at us and with sincerity written all over his face replied, “I forgot!”

It’s a puzzle and it’s puzzling…but I’m chuckling as I think about it.

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