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Basketball Buddies

Playgroundbball_2 Teaching students who are years behind their grade level requires the same skills that allow a 55 year old to run the court with teenagers. I need to "read" my kids, identifying gaps in their knowledge and skills, and anticipating where their weaknesses will lead. On the basketball court, I read the kids’ minds and get my lumbering body into position before my opponent starts his move. Its hard to say which mind game - the classroom or the playground - is more satisfying. Not having kids of my own, I have cherished the opportunity to bang on the boards, take charges, hit the open man, and use guile to play tenacious "D" with my young friends.

More than anything else, my students desire a father to play ball with. I can be the next best thing. Lately, I have been recalling the bond that is built setting hard picks for those hyper-energetic guards with a three point shot. It’s a symbiotic relationship where I slow down the game and help the scorer "play within himself." My teammate gets open shots, and when we win I get to stay on the court for the next games. There is a communication between b-ball buddies that is wonderful. It's hard to top the "high fives," the chest bumps, and the intense teacher/father and student/son conversations that grow out of pickup basketball.

Its hard to see a former buddy, who was such a wonderful and joyous rebounder, crippled by gunshots. Its hard to think of my several teammates who have put guns to the heads of others and pulled the trigger. This week, its hard to remember an uncontrollable little guard who is our latest victim in the latest gang war. - John Thompson


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