Signing my 8-year-old son up for basketball seemed like a no-brainer. He needed a winter sport to get exercise. He had never played basketball but wanted to try. Funny how the things that seem easy peasy lemon squeezy are the exact opposite.
The season began innocently enough. The first two months were focused only practices. They dribbled the ball. They tossed the ball. They passed the ball. They tried to get the ball in the basket.
When the coach called for a team huddle, Vman would stand outside the circle. As a kiddo with Sensory Processing Disorder who really doesn’t like being touched by others, he had absolutely no intention siding up with his teammates. I’m sure the coach thought something was off, but I decided to just let it go. Vman is 8 now, and he can manage many of his sensory issues on his own and wants to as well.
But then the games began. We had a full 10 weeks of basketball games scheduled on the calendar.
Basketball Is a Full Contact Sport
In basketball, besides the basics of handling the ball, coaches teach kids that they have one person they need to guard. Each child is paired against another kid on the opposite teach. Their one job is to block that person from being passed the ball. And if that person has the ball, that child’s one job is to keep that kiddo from being able to pass the ball to another teammate. Sounds innocent, right?
Wrong! Besides being in someone’s space, which is part of the game, children take it to a whole new level. They barely leave 2 inches between their face and the other kid’s. They wave their arms frantically, often slapping the other child’s arm. They even bump bodies. They are all over the place. Talk about a nightmare for Vman. There’s no doubt that basketball is a full contact sport!
I have to hand it to him. Vman really did want to play. He tried his best. But often it would just get too overwhelming. He felt absolutely trapped on that basketball court.
As parents, we often wonder when to intervene, when to say it’s time to quit and when to encourage your child to push forward. As my son gets older, my husband and I find ourselves leaning more toward encouraging him to push forward, figure out when it’s the right time for us to intervene and if there’s a right time to quit.
Vman was quite miserable some games and managed okay during others. A couple of them he left the court in tears because he was matched up with an overly enthusiastic (aka aggressive) kid. The coach (a fellow dad) did his best to try to help out Vman. I know he really didn’t understand what was going on. That’s how many people view sensory issues. They just don’t get it. They can’t see anything wrong so they just think the kid is being overly sensitive. Quite honestly, I didn’t feel like trying to explain it to yet another adult either.#Sensory Issue: They can't see anything wrong so they just think the child is being sensitive. Click To Tweet
We bumbled through the season. Some games we thought this was a good growing experience for Vman. Other games, I just thought we should up and quit. Instead, we decided to let Vman sit out when he wanted to. If he said he was done, he was done. We weren’t going to try to talk him into it. We weren’t going to try to make him feel bad for not participating. But we also didn’t leave the games. He was part of the team and could encourage his teammates on even if he wasn’t going to play.
When the final basketball game ended, we celebrated. We didn’t celebrate the season. We celebrated the ENDING of the season. We celebrated the fact that Vman learned a new sport. We celebrated that he had learned what he was comfortable with. And we celebrated that, no matter what, he wasn’t playing basketball again next winter.