Chapter Six – Playing Ball

Saturday arrived, and dad drove the kids to the junior high school. As we approached the old building that housed the gym and dance rooms, I got a little nervous about my first basketball practice. Dad had showed me a few tips about dribbling, passing, and shooting, but I was awkward, and I couldn’t get the ball to go in the direction I intended.

My sisters said goodbye and left for their dance class rooms, and my dad escorted me into the large gym. The room was huge, and it seemed like there were hundreds of boys chasing balls and tossing them at the hoops that were beyond their reach.

My team was sitting around a man who was giving them instructions. Danny was with the group, and he waved when he saw me approach. I also knew Nick from Primary. The coach’s son, Brock Packer, was in my kindergarten class, but I didn’t know any of the other boys.

Coach Packer had us run through a number of drills. We started with dribbling the ball. I did okay until he asked us to dribble and run at the same time, I wound up kicking the ball each time I tried, and I felt stupid chasing the ball after that happened.

When it came time to shoot a basket, none of us did very well where the coach had us start. Nick was the first boy to make a basket, but the rest of us continued inching closer to the basket. My shots got plenty of distance, but I had trouble aiming the ball in the direction of the hoop.

Everybody else had make at least one basket, and Coach Packer was getting a little frustrated with me. He lined right in front of the hoop about four feet out and handed me the ball.

“Let’s practice on your aim,” he said.

He stood next to me and spread his legs shoulder length apart. Holding the ball with both hands, he started between his knees and straight-armed the ball up to about his shoulders and repeated the same movement three times. The fourth time, he released the ball and it sailed up, hit the backboard perfectly in the center of the red square and then fell through the hoop.

“It’s called a granny shot,” the coach said. “It’s your turn.”

He handed me the ball and helped me get into starting position. I pumped the ball up and down several times before I released it from my hands. I watched it sail up into the air and to the far left of the basket. The ball hit Nick in the side of the head. Most of the boys laughed.

“Let’s try it again. Remember to keep your arms straight, and point them to that square just above the basket when you shoot.”

He stood behind me and guided my arms the first time and then let me shoot the basket. This time, it did just what it should—it hit the backboard, bounced on the rim a few times, and fell through the center of the hoop.

I clapped and jumped up and down. I was so excited. Danny was, too. He wrapped his arms around my torso as we began continued jumping up and down. Before the coach could separate us, he gave me a small peck on the cheek.

“Good job, Colin,” coach said. “Keep working on your aim, and you might just become a good ball player. About the celebration, though—teammates don’t ever hug and kiss each other.”

He held up his hand and turned to face his son. Brock lift his hand, jumped, and slapped his fathers’ hand.

“It’s a high five. Everybody, give your teammates a high five.”

We all clapped hands with each other, and the coach informed us that practice was over for the day. I wanted to give Danny another hug, but we settled for the high five.

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M. McMann

I am a writer, an artist, an athlete, a brother. I have the crazy dream of making my part of the world a better place. I like to do kind things in secret and observe the joy I bring into other people's lives. I can't stand seeing others being treated unjustly. I hate the direction our government is taking this country. Since when did taking care of those who can't take care of themselves become evil? Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity, and I think we all appreciate when someone else has offered to lift us up. I am your neighbor. I am Mystery McMann.

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