Last night, I accompanied my basketball players, most of them sophomores and juniors, to a local rec center for some Friday night basketball. Dressed in my best Crockett and Tubbs outfit, with a white polo shirt tucked into khaki slacks and black dress pants, I definitely didn't look the part of a baller. I did, however, have a set of shorts, t-shirt, and basketball shoes (with double socks, of course, stuffed into them). Gotta be ready in case a bball game ever breaks out.
As the game began, I observed that basketball first-date routine, with both teams, some players unknown to each other just a few minutes before, sizing each other up. There is that same lack of genuine personality in both first date and first few minutes of ball, with players and daters a little bit further apart physically than normal, a bit more stilted in words and actions.
As the game worn on, each player whom I knew stood out as an individual with his own particular goals manifested--or was I just a bit too analytical? My sophomore point guard went out of the way to handle the ball at every opportunity, sometimes to the detriment of the team, such as the fast breaks that he slowed up by riding the back shoulder of the willowy big man who ran the middle of the fast break, demanding the ball.
This willowy big man tried, and failed valiantly, at least three times to take a charge, flopping to the ground at the slightest contact from the one he was guarding. Governed by playground rules in which the "lesser" violations like offensive fouls, backcourt, and over-the-back are neglected unless the violation is an egregious one, the flop is that most cowardly of moves, and this big man was rewarded with silence and a few playful taunts when he demanded that his team get the ball on multiple offensive fouls.
The junior off-guard, who has been obsessive in his workout regimen since the season ended about two months ago, was loath to shoot from the outside even when the shots were wide open. He continually drove to the basket with reckless abandon at times, showing off his improved quickness, explosion, and strength for all to see, thanks to two-a-day workouts with weights and plyometrics, and long runs with a classmate who longs to be a Marine and trains like it.
The point guard is motivated by the team's need for a reliable ballhandler to make himself known, the big man by outer and inner criticism about his physical and mental toughness, and the off-guard by the defenders in previous years who crowded his jump shot with little regard for any possible drives to the basket.
And me? What's my motivation? Is it an inner motivation? If so, why have I opened up my goal, my dream, to so many outsiders (shotout to the three of you reading my blog on a regular basis!)? Is this opening up just another way of motivating myself from within, heaping on a sort of pressure to make myself more accountable to others, though they may be "Internet friends?"
Is it the thesis posited in my Introduction that I want to prove to myself that I was (am?) good, athletic, an achiever?
Watching my players on this night struggle, sweat, dive, and push themselves and their teammates, I have no clear epiphany on my goal, no way to make my vague goal to dunk completely understandable to my readers and to myself, but I do know that I miss the game very, very much.