Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Basketball mom

It's finally happened. I am becoming the sort of American 'mom' who ferries her sons around to endless sports classes.

For someone who was pretty hopeless at sport at school, and who spent her childhood learning the 'cello and doing drama, it's a fairly surprising outcome. But, in addition to the boys' weekly swimming lessons and ice skating lessons, Littleboy 1 now attends indoor basketball training on a Saturday morning. It's what you do here, and why not? After all, he has a lot of energy, and on a winter weekend when it's really too cold for much else in the icy New York winter, at least he's getting some exercise....

The first week I took him along by myself, as The Doctor was busy buying the Christmas tree. As we headed for the school gym where the class takes place, I became aware of several things at once;

a) I was not a Dad
b) I was not carrying Littleboy 1's own basketball (he doesn't have one, and had never played before), and bouncing it in an enthusiastic manner.
c) Littleboy 1 did not have a basketball sweatshirt emblazoned with the name of some player for the New York Knicks. (Although at least I know who these are now. It's so confusing, what with the New Jersey Nets, the Mets (baseball) and the Jets (American football). )

We therefore stood out already. As Littleboy 1 disappeared into the melee of over-excited small boys and coach-Dads wielding whistles, I wondered if lots of the other kids had played much before. As it was a group of five-year-olds, I thought maybe a few might have tried it....

But soon, the gym was awash with tiny boys who had obviously been trained to play basketball since they were in the womb. Dribbling with ease, shooting into a full-size adult hoop, passing - all egged on by their fathers, who, if not coaching, stood on the sidelines bouncing their own basketballs and cheering enthusiastically. When it came to the game itself, Littleboy 1, although strong and physically able, hadn't a clue what was going on. (He still hasn't - after three weeks now, he still passes to members of the opposite team. He claims to love it, though).

I can safely say that I was the only parent who sat down in a corner of the gym with a copy of the New York Times, and proceeded, in between glancing encouragingly at my son, to read the Travel section. The few other mothers there stood throughout, either sipping from enormous Styrofoam coffee cups or tapping on their iPhones (such is the Long Island mother at play in their natural habitat).

The third week, I told The Doctor that this time he really should go along and watch his offspring attempting to dribble a ball. I described the scene to him, and he looked askance. "It's all right for you," he grumbled. "You can probably get away with reading the paper. But I'm a father, and I'll be expected to be bouncing basketballs and cheering."

In the end we all went, but Littleboy 2 was soon bored, and I took him off to the shops, leaving The Doctor to it. (Not before he had commented that the whole thing - the slightly stinky gym, the cheering, the random chaos of small boys and basketballs - reminded him horribly of school. Like me, he did not excel at school sport - and still isn't all that interested in sport, except for ski-ing and tennis).

But when I got back, I found he hadn't touched the newspaper and seemed to have observed the game quite closely. And even he had to admit that there was something about the way that these American dads pumped their kids up that was really quite impressive. At the end of the game, all the kids joined hands and yelled out the team slogan - whereas we rather thought that, in England, everyone might have just slunk off home.

We'll make a basketball Dad of him yet. Just as soon as we put up that hoop in the backyard. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to take my sons to the skating rink (where five year olds in full ice-hockey gear shoot across the ice excitedly, boasting of how they're going to play for the Islanders one day). One day I might even pop into Starbucks and buy myself a grande latte on the way.......

16 comments:

Home Office Mum said...

You mean this is what I have potentially got waiting for me? Not sure whether to be excited or terrified

Knackered Mother said...

Oh this really made me laugh...got the same coming up with mini rugby this weekend. We're not really 'whoopers' but we'll give it a go...

Almost American said...

DS just started basketball in December. Every kid was given a team T-shirt, which they are expected to wear every week, and we were told on no account were we to bring a basketball as they are provided. I climb to the top of the bleachers with my knitting - a) it's my only exercise for the weekend, b) it's my only 'me' time for the weekend, and c) the top of the bleachers is the most comfortable place to sit as you can lean against the wall!

I have discovered it is The Place To Be on a Saturday morning though. We see just about all the other 2nd grade parents as their kids are either playing at the same time, before or after DS. Apparently I've been missing out on a lot of social connections by not signing him up for this years ago.

diney said...

my rugby mum days are gone with eldest now grown up and married but instead I have (11 year old daughter) netball and hockey to contend with....I did 16 years of rugby and now I have another 6 of sporty mummy and counting....

Muddling Along Mummy said...

I just love how you're giving us the inside track on how the American life really is - its like David Attenborough but better!

Potty Mummy said...

It's a slippery slope - you'll be long term residents before you know it!

Iota said...

I'm going to get you a t-shirt with "New York Knickers" on it.

I can't get my head round how seriously they take sports at such a young age here. The word 'ridiculous' springs to mind, but the thing is, if your child doesn't start early, then when it comes to getting into serious leagues, they are at a disadvantage (I'm told - though I think they catch up pretty fast at the age of 10 or so). And of course you need to be in a competitive league if you're going to get a college sports scholarship. There's big money at stake.

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Ahh so glad that you got this post up and to hear how the story has developed! I don't think I mentioned that basketball is one sport Chris has not become hooked on but I fear if given the opportunity, he'd too be game!

nappy valley girl said...

Home Office Mum - better start reading up on those Seattle sports teams....

Knackered Mother - I'm not sure I'll ever be a whooper either. But I might stretch to 'great job!' one day soon.....

Almost American - he now does have a team shirt, which makes it easier. No bleachers in the gym, though, so it's all a bit unsatisfactory - and although a lot of the kids are people we know, the mothers don't seem to come, so I've no-one to gossip with.

Diney - rugby, now that will be a whole different ball game so to speak.......

Muddling Along - thank you! Do you think the BBC wildlife unit would make a series?

PM - yes, it would be all to easy - the weird thing is that after I wrote this post I wondered if I was just describing something completey normal! Currently unlikely to happen, but you never know....

Iota - yes, they are definitely very serious even at five. (Mind you, it's probably why the US outdoes the UK massively at sports events......)

Tanya - it was definitely our conversation that crystallised the blog post!

Expat mum said...

God, now I'm feeling guilty. I did all of this with my oldest son (at his insistence) but the little guy isn't interested at all. He does piano and drama, sometimes robotic stuff after school and has no interest in "silly" t-ball teams etc. He is starting a swimming session this Saturday so I suppose that's something, but still......
Wanders off, deep in thought..

Michelloui said...

Now I know why I ended up in Britain. I would be a useless 'soccer mom'. Or basketball mom. When my daughter goes to horseriding lessons I bring a book and try to remember to look up each time she passes by, when I take her to rowing I am the mum who forgets a form or sneaks off for a coffee while daughter is out of sight down the river (with a coach nearby, obviously). I admire those who do this well and with apparent ease.

Calif Lorna said...

This is exactly how I felt when I took my oldest son to baseball for the first time. I was surrounded by enthusiastic dads throwing the ball back and for to warm up. We are decidedly not in that enthusiastic realm and do indeed slink off after training. But you have to admire their love of sport, even if it is a bit overwhelming sometimes.

Mwa said...

While it's no doubt very validating to the children, and a great way to get to know other parents, I'm so glad to be living in a country where that kind of thing involves only dropping off and picking up on my part. There's only so much encouragement I have in me, and I do cherish the moments when another adult is in charge and I can go do my own thing.

nappy valley girl said...

Expat Mum - well, if he isn't interested, why worry? I reckon it's best to nurture their interests - LB1 seems to love sports, but his brother might turn out to be a little less keen, so I'm currently mulling piano....

Michelloui - I know what you mean, I've always been so unsporty myself that I feel like a fraud at these occasions.

Lorna - I do admire it. And I think it gives American children even more confidence, not just at sports, but generally.

Mwa - yes, I agree. I do go and read my book during swimming as you are not allowed to stay and watch. And that is blissful!

PantsWithNames said...

You mOm! You'll be tapping on your iphone whilst coaching from the sidelines before you come back here - and then when we all slink back home you'll be leading the team cheer!

PippaD aka Mummy said...

Sorry can't comment, read your post but instead was thinking of the lovely men in One Tree Hill...