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The Basketball Court Lesson

Teachings of a Child

by Hal Evan Caplan
November 16, 2013

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The Basketball Court Lesson

My son has been my teacher for many years now. The interesting thing to point out is that he still teaches me lessons on a regular basis. Sometimes I'm at the center of the lesson while other times I walk smack dab into the middle of the lesson in the making. Needless to say the lessons that I learn from him happen at random times, places and scenarios.

My teacher is very much into sports from both a participating and watching perspective. Apparently, he caught the basketball bug. It's like he is obsessed with it. He does not play on a school or city league but he and his neighborhood friends spend hours at a time playing the sport. I don't just mean here or there. No, I mean like almost every day after school and weekends.

For a very long time the neighborhood kids played at the vacant house in our neighborhood because that house had a basketball hoop and a large driveway. Actually, the driveway of the vacant house was at the end of the alley way, so it was a much larger basketball court compared to the other houses in the area. And since we don't own a basketball hoop and nor did his friends, that seemed to be the next logical step for where they could play. Not to mention the convenience factor with it being just a few houses away.

Over time and years of weather as well as the number of games the neighborhood kids continuously spent playing basketball at the "Neighborhood Basketball Court", as they called it; the hard plastic backboard eventually broke. One half of the backboard had cracked, and then a large piece fell out. A few days later the same thing happened to the other side of the backboard. Basically, the rim and the very weathered net remained at the bottom portion of the frame where the backboard once resided. Playing basketball is not fun without the backboard and soon the neighborhood kids were without a place to play. My teacher told me that it was not worth playing when they had no backboard to bank the ball into the net.

Other houses in the neighborhood had permanent basketball goals; however, the residents who currently owned the houses did not have kids. Those basketball goals were reminiscent of previous home owners where kids once lived. Looking around our area of the neighborhood, there were a handful of permanent basketball goals, too.

One day, my teacher was told by one of his neighborhood friends that the friend had approached a lady who owned one of the houses with the basketball goal. He asked if they could all play at her house and the friend was told that they could play basketball anytime. My teacher however, was not present at the time this message was delivered to his friend. That being said, he did not feel comfortable going to a house where he did not know the owner and begin playing basketball just because his friend said that he talked to the lady.

My teacher was getting very antsy because he missed playing basketball, so he finally took matters into his own hands. A few days later he went to the house and knocked on the door. A different friend, who was a little younger than my teacher, was with him and watched as he knocked on the door. According to my teacher, the homeowner was a single lady and in a very nice manner he introduced himself, explained the situation with the broken basketball goal and asked her if he could play at her house. He wanted to hear first-hand the answer to the question and again didn't want to get into trouble for assuming that it was okay to play at her house without permission.

To his surprise, the lady immediately gave him permission without hesitation. She, too, expressed to my teacher that he could play ball there anytime, even if she was not home. He was so excited that he and his young friend, who witnessed my teacher's actions, ran home to tell my wife the details of his conversation with the "Basketball Lady", as he called her. Apparently he did not recall her name, so, "Basketball Lady" it was.

I had just walked in from my commute home from work when I heard my teacher in mid conversation with my wife. The conversation was certainly filled with excitement. His arms were flailing about as he described in detail, mind you, the discussion he had just wrapped up with the "Basketball Lady". Because I wasn't exactly clear of what had just happened since I walked in at the tail end of the conversation between my teacher and my wife, he had no problem repeating the discussion. Because my wife realized that the conversation was going to be repeated to me, she headed for the kitchen. But before she did that, she expressed how proud of him she was for verifying that he could actually play at the "Basketball Lady's" house. And that it was good for his younger friend to see that he took the time to get permission. Then my wife left the room and disappeared around the corner.

"I sort of heard what you told mom. Can you repeat that please?" I asked. With arms-a-flapping he began.

"I wanted to make sure that I could really play at her basketball hoop, just to be 100% sure. So me and Luka went to the lady's door. I knocked on it and waited and knocked again. F...i...n...a...l...l...y she opened the door and I told her my name. I told her all about the other basketball goal and asked if we could play at her house if we were very careful and respectful. Then she said sure anytime even if she wasn't home." He explained.

It was like I pulled the string of a "Chatty Cathy" doll. He was going a million miles an hour telling me the story. Listening to him reminded me of how quickly an auctioneer can speak. I knew he was excited, but wow. His friend just stood there silent, watching this whole thing like a statue. I knew he was explaining the events that had recently taken place with the "Basketball Lady", but I had no idea a lesson was just seconds away.

"That is so awesome!" I commended him.

"Thanks." He smiled.

"I really didn't want to get into trouble." He expressed.

"Good thinking." I chuckled.

"I wanted to do the right thing." He voiced.

"Well that certainly was the right thing." I expressed.

"Plus, Luka got to see the right way to handle a situation like that." He pointed out with a gleam in his eye.

And just like that, the lesson was brought home in the last sentence of our conversation just before he and Luka went back to the "Basketball Lady's" house to start up a new game.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I was reminded of that day was: When given the chance to be a role model to others, embrace that opportunity.

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PO BOOKS BY HAL EVAN CAPLAN
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke
Published September 28, 2010

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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More by Hal Evan Caplan
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