Forum — From the August 2015 issue


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My eleven-year-old daughter, Lola, is short for her age, wiry, and fast. Her body type and skill set are not ideally suited to basketball, yet this is the sport she has chosen. Last fall, I signed her up for a basketball league in Pacific Palisades, and a few days later I received an email from Nicole, the woman who administered the league, saying that they were in need of coaches. I volunteered. She told me to attend the player evaluations, to better prepare for the draft.

There was only one other coach at the evaluations: Stan, an older man with white hair and a Hawaiian shirt. He carried a white clipboard with a basketball court stenciled on it and did not acknowledge me. A dozen girls took turns shooting from the top of the key, the free-throw line, and the elbow. Then they dribbled down the center of the court in a serpentine between orange cones. I took careful notes about each girl’s height and shooting ability. This was the first of two evaluations, though on the day of the second one, Coach Nicole called and said I didn’t need to attend. I completed my draft form and emailed it to her. She sent back a team roster and I noticed that I had received a couple of the players I had requested.

“Airstream,” by Julie Blackmon © The artist. Courtesy the artist and Radius Books

“Airstream,” by Julie Blackmon © The artist. Courtesy the artist and Radius Books

At our first practice, I took stock of the Fever, as our team was called. We had Anna and Jessie, both of above-average height, and Freedom and Lori, who could both handle the ball.1 We also had Portia, Sara, Atoosa, and, of course, Lola. I spent a third of the practice trying to get the girls to stop arguing, texting, and posting to Instagram. Finally, I organized a few basketball-related activities: layup lines, defensive drills, and free-throw shots.

1 Names have been changed because this is a story about eleven-year-olds. 

Our first game was against the Sky, which was headed by Coach Stan. None of the girls on his team had been at the evaluation I had attended, and most of them were taller than the Fever’s tallest player.

We tipped off. Our team didn’t put up a serious shot until about ten minutes into the game, by which point the other team was shooting uncontested layups and we were losing 22–0. Our opponents were not only taller, they also could score from fifteen feet or more. Our team didn’t have a single player who could reliably hit an open jump shot, though we had plenty who would eagerly take and miss well-guarded twenty-five-footers.

By the start of the second half I was having a hard time persuading players on the bench to go back into the game. We ended up losing 55–9. Afterward, I shook Coach Stan’s hand. He smirked and said, “Nice game, coach.”

When Coach Nicole sent me the schedule for the rest of the season, I discovered that the league had only two teams. Every Sunday, the Fever would play the Sky, a team that, if the first week’s game was indicative, was superior in every respect, including coaching.

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’s most recent novel, The Subprimes, was published in May by Harper Books.

More from Karl Taro Greenfeld:

Forum From the August 2015 issue

How to Be a Parent

Fiction From the June 2012 issue

Fun won

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