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Dec 19 2010

Girls Love Basketball Just as Much as Boys – At Least at First

Summary: How I became a parent PE volunteer for my daughter’s class and my surprise at how much little girls love basketball.

For seven years we (ie. my partner) had a rule. She gets to sleep in on Saturdays and I take care of our daughter and keep her out of her hair. Since Saturdays were also father/daughter adventure day, this meant that I couldn’t surf on that day.

Now you’d think that surfing six days a week would be enough. Well it’s not, especially when we get back to back swells that hit on a Saturday. One such Saturday was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I got one text after another from my buddies about how epic it was. On Sunday I paddle out and the swell had already dropped by half and switched to the north.

“Dude, you should have been here yesterday. Can’t you just switch days or something?”

I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed my Saturdays back.

I also felt the rule was out dated as my daughter is much older now and a million times easier to deal with. These days we’re generally well rested, our sex doesn’t get interrupted anymore, and my partner has plenty of time to relax and watch her favorite shows, read, and surf the web.

However, the bulk of my schedule is the same as I’m the sole income provider. All I really do is work, take care of my daughter and surf. That’s it. I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. I don’t watch sports or hang out with “the boys”. I never take a vacation unless it’s with my family. I’m frugal and don’t squander money on dumb hobbies or gambling. I’m not into cars, motorcycles, planes, or any other time consuming and expensive passions. I’m a hard working, clean living family guy and I like it that way. So after seven years of skipping Saturday’s I’d had it. I should be able surf every day. It’s my one vice and it’s a very healthy one at that.

So I sat my partner down and started to explain the situation. Naturally she flew off the handle. She went into full defensive mode and then straight into attack mode.

“Wait and let me finish. I think you’ll like what I have to say. Listen first, then you can respond.”

“Ummm, ok. Go. I’m waiting.”

Her arms were crossed, her eyes were wild and dilated, and she looked like she was going to rip my head off. But she was going to give me the courtesy of fair hearing first. And then she’d rip my head off.

I told her that I couldn’t handle our arrangement anymore. I was very unhappy and getting resentful. I need to surf every day. That’s it. That’s all I do and I want it every day. In return I offered her a weekday instead. One day a week I would get our daughter ready for school, make her lunch, take her to class, the works. I would also pick her up from school. This would allow me to surf everyday because instead of doing dawn patrol on that day I would surf swing shift after I dropped our daughter off. It took her some time to fully understand what I was saying, and how superior a weekday sleep-in was to a weekend sleep-in, but she ultimately agreed. She picked Wednesday because every other Wednesday was laundry day and that would be a perfect day not to have to deal with parenting stuff.

So how does this tie into basketball?

Since I was now picking my daughter up every Wednesday at 3pm, I decided to show up early at 2:30 and be a parent volunteer for PE. This worked great all around because I got to help out a bit, get a more intimate view of how my daughter’s school works, and also beat the pick-up time rush hour traffic. I’d much rather play outside that sit in a caravan of cars.

At our school they have PE at the end of the day, which works really nice as the kids are less spazzy when they come home.

The second grade class is exceptionally large and composed of four and half classes with the half being a second-third combo. This size cluster was evident in Kindergarten and has continued to ripple through the school as they age.

The kids are dived into groups. My daughter’s in group one and every day the teachers rotate to a different group and organize that day’s activities. Unfortunately, group one’s Wednesday teacher is really into dance so that’s what I end up doing most of the time. It’s not so much the dance itself – though foot stomping square dancing is a bit tiresome – it’s that there is not a lot for me to do unless a kid is missing a partner.

Ok, it really is the dance mostly. It would be fine if we mixed it up a bit, but the teacher has a lifelong interest in this stuff and she wants to share it. The kids do their best to follow along.

“All right…now two steps forward…now two steps back…dos si do…now promenade…form a circle…now to the left…now back to the right..ok what’s going on here? Does this look like a circle? Every one spread out. Why are you by yourself? Who’s your partner? Ok everyone back to your original positions. Not that position, the one where we line up facing your partner. Do you remember who your partner was? No? Well somebody must be your partner or else someone else has two. Who has two partners? Ok, which one was your original partner? You don’t know. Does anyone remember? Excuse me I’m talking now.”

It’s much like herding cats and this folk dance is as silly to do as it is to look at. It’s also really hard. It’s pretty advanced stuff for second graders who didn’t grow up on a farm in the 1890′s. Even I struggle to remember the patterns and all the names for the moves. Of course, I suck at dancing all around, so maybe I shouldn’t say “even I”. I’m just better at faking it because I’ve got an additional 37 years life experience years on these kids. Now, add some thumping fiddle music on the boom box and it takes a toll on my psyche.

Anyway, on a few lucky days, either due to a substitute teacher or a switch in laundry day, we didn’t do dance and instead did basketball. Not a full game of basketball, just some free play basic dribbling and hoops.

Most of the boys take off and start shooting. Some are quite good.

The girls on the other hand, are struggling.

It’s clear they don’t have the upper body strength to even get the ball over the rim. It’s just one air ball after another. Their dribbling is really sloppy as well, but there is one girl who is completely lost. She’s very shy and petite and she’s off to the side slapping the ball as if she was spanking it. Whack, whack, roll away. Whack, whack, roll away. I’m surprised she didn’t fracture her wrist. No one can sustain that type of trauma for long.

“I notice you’re slapping the ball. I know that’s what it looks like when other people are doing it but they’re not really doing a slapping motion.”

I do a slap dribble to show that even an adult can’t dribble that way.

“See, even I can’t do it that way and I’m much bigger. Dribbling a basketball is really a pushing motion. You push the ball down. Then you follow it. See what’s happening? So I push and follow it down and then follow it back up. Then I push it down again. Down and up, down and up. My hand it right next to the ball the whole time. The closer your hand the better. Here, you try now.”

She nails it on her first try and does her longest and most in control dribble yet.

“Excellent! Perfect. Feels better on your wrist doesn’t it?”

She’s shy and introverted, and I’m only around one day a week, so she never answers me when I speak to her. But the big smile on her face, and the ah-ha twinkle in her eyes tell me everything I need to know.

“Do you want to try to shoot now?”

She shakes her head.

“Want to keep practicing your dribbling?”

She nods.

“Ok, I’ll be over there with the other girls if you need me or want to shoot”.

I walk over to the girls. They still haven’t made a single basket. Most of the time it’s a good foot below the rim and just rolls away into the grass.

“Ok, I’m going to show you a method that will allow to get the ball high enough to get in the basket. Take the ball in both hands like this. Now bend your knees a bit and swing the ball between your legs and then toss it up. This is called underhand. It’s a totally legitimate way to shoot a basket ball. Pros are allowed to do it if they want. So it’s not cheating or wrong. It’s just another way to shoot a ball. Here, you try.”

The first girl tosses it. Swish. She flashes a huge grin.

“I’m next!”

The next girl gets the ball up but it bounces off the rim.

“That was really close. Try again.”

The next one’s a clean shot off the backboard and it drops right in.

There’s five girls in the group and they are pumped. They start practicing right way. After using a better technique for their strength level, they went from hopeless air balls to hitting at least 25% of their shots in five minutes.

We don’t have enough basketballs for everyone one, so one’s using an old soccer ball and one’s using an asymmetrical red rubber kickball with the typical bulge on one side.

The tiniest girl is using a brand new huge thick-skinned basketball. It takes all her strength to get past the rim.

“Would you like to change to something smaller.”

She just shakes her head and keeps on throwing – which is what I expected. She may be small and quite but she’s focused and competitive and has no problems setting boundaries. Even if it means she spends most of her time chasing the ball into the grass.

So that’s it. A little bit of instruction and a group of girls kicked their high failure rate, thus ensuring that they will continue to enjoy basketball for as long as they choose rather than losing interest because they suck. Which would be most unfortunate because at seven years old, they are going to suck at a lot of things.

File Under: Basketball Teaching Techniques That Accommodate Different Strength, Coordination and Skill Levels Among Boys and Girls