Monday, February 25, 2008

What a Hoot!

Philip has been playing basketball with the "Discovery League" for about the past year. Since he plays with our (practically) neighbor friend Michael we had gotten into the habit of having him picked up and transported to his practices by Mike's parents. So it's been a while since I'd been to the little gym at the local elementary school but since Mike is just playing on Wednesday nights now, I had to take Philip myself.

We walked into the school where we noticed Melvin, a 20 something year old man staring out the window waiting for...well, he just seemed to be waiting and watching...for something. Once through the door we were immediately greeted by Mary, a very friendly older teen with some yellowish-black goo stuck to her front teeth who latched on to me immediately.

Oh hi. I don't know you. Do you ever come here?

Yes, I'm Philip's mom. He usually comes with Michael.

Oh. Yeah. Is that your son?

Yes, that's my son Philip.

Oh! (she touches my belly) You're having a baby! I like babies! When will you be having the baby?

The baby's due in June.

Oh! Is it a boy or a girl?

It's a girl.

Philip, you're going to have a baby girl!

I sit down - Mary sits down so close to me her left thigh is practically in my lap.

I like basketball. I've been coming here but we couldn't come here for a while. It's been a long time. The coach said we can't come when the school is closed. The school has been closed. So we can't come when the school is closed. My mom explained that to me. Did you know that? We can't play basketball when the school is closed. But if we did basketball someplace where it isn't a school we could do basketball because it wouldn't be closed like a school. It's just because we play basketball in a school.

It went on like this for several more minutes while Heather, another late teenish young lady with down syndrome called out to Melvin from time to time

Melvin, stay here! Don't go anywhere Melvin.

I don't think Melvin was planning to move.

Finally 7:00 rolled around, the little Discovery Team kids wandered out of the gym, the coach arrived and Philip and his friends were free to shoot some hoops. Phlip was the first one on the court, zigging and zagging with a zeal obviously intended to receive some attention. It didn't gain much attention. The coach's son was too busy bouncing the basketball off his knee and his head in front of one of the moms who clapped appreciatively which was acknowledged by the performer with a deep bow and a high five.

Meanwhile another mom was cheering loudly for her son who seemed to have some proprioceptive issues. He would make an attempt at a shot, then stagger across the court to retrieve the ball. He actually managed 4 baskets in a row - apparently an unprecedented feat for him - each of which were met with enthusiastic whoops from his mom.

Another 20 year old entered the gym and was tossed a practice ball. His processing time was a bit slow so it took him a full minute, about 5 random vocalizations and a series of cryptic hand gestures to realize that he had a ball in hand and should maybe do something with it. He licked it then carried it to the other side of the court.

They spent the first half of the session in practice and then played a scrimmage for the last half. Philip got to be on the team without the annoying yellow pinnies (watching these poor folks try to navigate four random holes, a head, two arms and a waist is almost physically painful). He's definitely the fastest one on the court which is probably the fuel for his NBA aspirations. Fortunately, the coach has been doing this a long time and understands the unique dynamics in Discovery League Basketball. He's made up some of his own rules - like the one that says you have to pass the ball 4 times before you shoot. And usually you have to pass the ball to the person assigned to you by the coach. Then there's the no blocking rule. Philip prides himself in his ability to knock the ball out of other players' hands - I guess he hasn't caught on to that rule yet. Traveling is a non-rule. Following that one requires far more coordination than any of the players can handle. And shooting a basket is a Big Deal. Plenty of time is always allowed for all the players and each and every shot is met with appropriate cheers or consolations from the parents on the sidelines. I don't think there's a limit to the number of attempts allowed at scoring a basket. Philip usually makes it in within the first one or two when he's granted the ball which really does put him in the category of top scorer - even more fuel for his NBA dreams.

I had plumb forgotten how much fun these games are to watch. All the players really give their all and they are so kind to each other. High fives all around follow just about every play whether or not it was a good one. All the parents are happy to relate to all the kids - not just their own. We all understand how valuable that attention is and we all understand when someone else's kid does something completely odd or inappropriate. We are a subset of people who have learned to Take Things In Stride. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. Discovery Hoops are a real hoot!

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