My daughter has been playing basketball half her life. She plays well and has a good time doing it. She opted not to play travel ball so she could just have fun playing it without the intensity and competitiveness of travel teams.
Recently, however, we experienced something that may have changed her approach and overall state of mind with respect to the sport. The crux of the problem? A parent.
In this particular game, she was playing really well. In fact, I was amazed by a few of her shots. It looked like she was being moved by some greater force or something. I mean, she floated down the court and, in one case, hit a shot from the three point line, using only her right arm, flinging it in with nothin’ but net.
It was beautiful.
She was having so much fun.
Until a dad from the other team apparently decided that the three high school girls coaching his daughter’s team weren’t doing their jobs coaching his daughter. He stepped in and took over, intimidating the girls and getting his face right in all of their faces. I couldn’t hear what he said to them, but my daughter’s teammates overheard him say to his daughter, “You see that #23? Whatever you do, don’t let her take a shot!”
He barked his orders and sent out his attack dog.
We’re talking fifth and sixth grade girls, here, people.
I was keeping the clock for the game, which meant I was sitting next to a dad from the other team, who was keeping the stats and the score in the official game book. He and I had been engaging in friendly chatter for the duration of the game. When Attack Dad turned his daughter into Attack Girl even scorekeeper dad noticed. He said, “Wow, she’s being pretty nasty.” He told me about how he believes that a lot of parents try to live through their kids and work out whatever they were unable to accomplish in their own childhoods. Sure, I’ve heard that and believe it. But, geesh!
At one point, when the girl had excessively elbowed my daughter (and had the bruises and cuts to show for it afterward), she asked Attack Girl, “What are you doing?” Attack Girl responded harshly, “It’s called playing a sport.”
Well, that’s not the way I’ve been taught to play sports. Or the way my kids have been taught to play sports. Certainly not girls’ basketball, anyway. And certainly not in elementary school.
After four fouls called on his daughter, my daughter went to the drinking fountain, shaken, crying and battered. Scorekeeper dad nudged me and said softly, “Er, I think your daughter’s crying.” Sure enough, he’d pushed her to the point of tears. She walked over to me. I hugged her and could feel her shaking. She showed me her cuts and said, “Mom, I’ve never played with someone so mean.”
The coaches took my daughter out for the rest of the game.
I didn’t know how to handle this situation. Attack Dad stands at about 6’3″ and fiercely glares at people. I don’t think it’s my imagination. During that game he looked fierce. Should I have gone over to the guy and said something? If so, what? Would that have really solved anything? The coaches were apologizing, the referees were apologizing, even scorekeeper dad apologized. He told me that his dad coached his basketball team when he was a boy and that, in his opinion, that girl was way over the top. There were definitely moments when it was all I could do to hold myself back from running out there and getting between them.
It was just awful.
I know I’m a bit of a lightweight and hate conflict, but I’m also a sports lover and appreciate the pleasure one can get from playing a good competitive game. But this? This incident was not sport.
I looked over at the guy and scowled in my own kind of glaring way, but then I remembered the hockey player’s dad who killed a guy. So, I decided to walk away. It’s what my daughter wanted to do, too. She said, “Mom, I just want to leave. Please.” So I wrapped my arm around her, held her close and walked out the door.
She really hasn’t played the same way since that game. I can’t help but wonder if she subconsciously fears more attacks, so she’s pulling back a bit on her level of play. Better to fit in than to be attacked (?!). I hope not. I hope the Attack Family did not win by intimidation. But, on the other hand, maybe my daughter has a point when she says we should start thinking about tennis.