The Game is the Game

Imagine this team of girlfriends: one twirls her ponytail as she jogs down the court after shooting a basket. Another manages the remarkable feat of skipping while she dribbles. A third will dance the electric slide when the coach makes a gesture for her to move down the court. Yet another polite child steps aside so her opponent can shoot. An even more altruistic one shoots for the opposing team. Exactly three of the nine third- and fourth-grade girls fight like hell to play basketball and win. The others wouldn't dream of getting in the way.

This is the team of girly girls my husband coaches for Woodbury Parks and Rec. The other coaches, competitive women familiar with the skill level of all the players on the town's three teams, divvied up the teams and left my husband with the least competitive, least basketball-skilled of all. Winning is important to them, clearly.

So tonight, when the girl who once almost scored for the wrong team scored for her own and then stopped and turned to smile at her family, I could have cried. When my daughter scarfed the ball out from under this scrappy little Middlebury kid, I about died. When the hair twirler scored over and over again for Woodbury, well, it was beautiful. When our scrappy little players played like hell, but even better than before--what do you say? On the bench, each girl congratulated the other for what she did right and inquired after our injured player--half our stock of tall girls.

When the score was 24 to 8 and my husband told the girls he wasn't going to run the score but give the kids who don't get much of a chance to play the chance they need to get good--and the girls understood--it was a tremendous night. It's nice to win and win well, but there really is no value in creaming somebody just because you can. Kids get that.

After the game, one of the Middlebury coaches asked my husband why Woodbury is so good this year.

What do you say to that? (My husband said something, but....) Isn't it remarakable we can build in each other the courage we need to do well? When we know we're in it together and act on that with joy and optimism and a downright solid sense of good fun?