Tag Archiv: basketball

Team Sports

Baseball, by Henry Sandham, published by L. Prang and Co. between 1861-1897

Baseball, by Henry Sandham, published by L. Prang and Co. between 1861-1897

I’m jaded these days about North American athletics. They’re expensive and require significant time commitments. The possibilities for a kid from outside the system to play sports are shrinking. My love of sport has been largely set aside with my worries that as a culture we’ve highjacked it’s value and replaced it with something shiny that we don’t need, not to mention something that puts a major roadblock in the way of the family dinner.

When my son was in grade eight, we attended his first band concert. “Music is important,” said the director at the end, “because it teaches you that the whole is more important than the individual.” A lot of dark things have defended themselves with similar sounding statements. But it may be that little good has ever been accomplished without it. My brother worries that the concept of teamwork is becoming foreign for a generation of athletes raised to celebrate their individual achievements with group achievements a secondary consideration.

I have never coached a basketball team like the one I did this year. Of eleven players, one had played on a team before, one could dribble with more than one hand, two could shoot at a rate higher than 1/5. Few understood anything about the rules beyond putting the ball in the hoop and dribbling to move with the ball. They wore jeans to every practice. Not all of them could tie their shoes. Most could handle losing a group drill without leaving the gym humiliated and furious. None were in good physical condition or very interested in becoming so. All were on the team because the team was the gym class and at the end there was a tournament day.

I’ve never gone to a competition with lower criteria for success. Yet I don’t know how many times I have felt as convinced about the value of athletics. We sustained eight losses and one victory, but my eyes filled with tears more than once as I was reminded about the power of sports to do very good things.

Maybe I question clubs and travelling squads, but rag tag groups of people learning to bring their best for a common purpose is something to cheer about. Working together is the cornerstone of human existence. With great effort and patience, on a team we discover what it is to pass through a tiny gate to which sacrifice for another is the only key to the door. Ours own interests surrendered, we become something greater than we realize.

There is a difference between a kid in a t-shirt shooting baskets and the 4 foot player afraid of the charging opposition but standing their ground for the team. We witness in the latter something noble and our spirits soar. In sports, as in life, our moments of greatness depend on our willingness to be a team. Simple sometimes unobserved acts of sacrifice in which are hidden our potential for magnificence.

Listening to Advent


My already slow march toward sainthood has suffered repeated setbacks lately. There is limited pleasure in observations of my shortcomings at any time, but failure set to Christmas music can feel especially glum. I’m not sure it’s even the season that’s getting to me right now as much as the fact that I’m trying so hard and still not spreading peace and joy like dew drops from my wings.

I speak from experience when I say that there is nothing that makes me feel quite so hateful as when I try to be loving and end up being the worst side of me in the middle of it. Examples abound. In case my explanation has failed the clarity test, I’ll share a recurring one.

Loving act:  Extra nice breakfast prepared. Many loving thoughts and warm affections fill me as my feet step lightly through the kitchen. Delicious test: Flying colours. Presentation: Strong. Nutrition: Check. Tra la la la.

Worst side of self races to the fore: I react to the dawdling, complaining, and habitually tardy with acts of war.

Realization hits: I started out to bathe people in love and my irritation and anger is now dripping from their hair.

Result: I hate everyone I know. The Grand They has made me do this. The Grand They continually conspire to make me fail and they are exceedingly good at it. If it weren’t for them I would love everyone with patience and gentleness, possibly even me.

Resulting result: An overwhelming sense of failure salted for flavour with hopelessness


So goes the Advent slog on this side of the fence. I’m not feeling as depressed about it as I was. Probably because I got good and mad about something yesterday (again in the midst of planned lovefest for an undeserving segment of mankind). I was more justified than usual, ergo more mad than usual. Then an unlikely bystander was ridiculously kind and generous and I was invited without words to set aside the anger and return to the lovefest.  It didn’t feel logical, but it felt possible.

Advent whispers, if we watch for them, if we let them, at odd intervals, strangers and babies light candles in the dark to save us.

Advent whispers that life might be more like soccer than basketball (one or two goals scored in a game as opposed to seventy or eighty). Missed shots are just directives to shoot again.

Advent says a little louder, despite the occasional evidence to the contrary, we need each other too much to bother with all the hating. Better to load up on matches and start striking. We don’t light our own candles, we light each other’s. Whether in a lifetime we manage one or ten for someone else is largely not up to us. But best to go down trying, with soot marks on our hands and wax dripped down our fingers, aiming for a thousand.