Perspective From Vertical Stripes

I recently had the privilege of reffing three fifth grade girl's basketball games for a hometown tournament.

Mind you, I have no daughters. Or fifth graders. Nor did the other person on the court wearing the black and white vertical stripes.

We did it because we were asked and we were available.

We "answered the call," so to speak.

During this stint I had the privilege also of watching a 5'6" fifth grader play the cleanest defense I've seen in... possibly ever. Somewhere along the way someone taught this girl to jump and to keep her hands straight up on defense.

It was fantastic to see.

I saw an inbound play devised that could only be described as a stroke of genius. It worked consistently to get not one player open but two. Every. Time.

It was all I could do not to applaud!

At the end of the first game I had four girls come up and give me a fist bump while saying, "thanks for reffing." I don't care if their coach told them to, the fact of the matter is - they did it. They didn't win. They weren't the hometown team that knew me from anywhere. They were 10-year-old girls - following direction. My inner applause meter was soaring!

This - my dear people - is the best side of youth sports. Court manners, developing players, watching a play that has been practiced over and over come to life and work - that's the good stuff.

That is why, as parents, you should be inclined to say yes if your kid asks to try a sport.

Not to start a trophy collection. Not because next-door-Natalie is doing it. Not because your child is tall/quick/tough and everyone says they should.

It should be because they want to. And because you want them to learn something from it.

It also, my competitive friends, should not be because your team "dominated" in fifth grade and now you, as a parent, feel like you can breathe some of that success into your child's team.

** We interrupt this post to bring you a breaking NEWS FLASH!**

The amount of craps given about your experience as a fifth-grade All-Star is ZERO.

Zero craps.

No one even cares if you passed fifth grade in one year or if you took it twice.

If you want to jump in and help your child and their team learn a sport you know or love, here's the real criteria;

-- Can you break it down so they can understand it?

-- Can you give them basic knowledge of the rules?

--Can you make it even the teensiest bit (hold on, I'm going to use a word here... a word not often used when talking about youth sports.....) fun?

That's right. Can you make it fun?

Let me break down that word. I have a feeling I've left at least one person confused...

Fun - as in - not a daunting task or chore. Fun - as in - something they would choose to do on their own in their free time simply because they found it enjoyable. Fun - as in - a reason people smile and/or laugh.

.... I think I just heard a dude in the back of the crowd say, "oh we'll be smiling alright, when we're holding our first place trophies."

Dude in the back - why don't you head home and go dust off your fifth grade trophy collection. The one you still have displayed in your home. Yeah, that one. Go polish those babies up. Make 'em shine. Show the world what kind of a person you really are.

To the rest of you - spending two to four hours of your week at a practice instead of getting to watch The Masked Singer - those of you stepping up and teaching kids rules, rebounding and respect - I applaud you. I know its likely you have Twirling Tina who spends every moment on the court spinning in circles. I know you have Won't-Pass Wendy and a Double-Dribble Donna. You have challenges galore and if you can step onto a court or field with eight plus youth and not use one curse word or make any kid feel like toe jam - you deserve your own trophy.

A much bigger one than the dude who got his in fifth grade.