Post-season basketball is aptly named March Madness, a time of intense tournament play, when players, coaches and fans go all out.
Lots could go wrong in all the intensity: bad sportsmanship, bad role modeling, injuries.
But a lot of good can come out of the competition, and I saw that at a recent March Madness tournament hosted by St. Bernadette Parish.
St. Columbkille teams seemed to give it their all, with some winning championships. But even more impressively, I saw St. Columbkille parishioners supporting each other as players and their families dropped in on games being played by other St. Columbkille teams. The kids were especially boisterous, creating their own cheering section near a St. Columbkille team bench, chanting and spurring on the players.
Last year, a couple of referees had spats with fans or coaches. But I didn’t see anything like that this year. In fact, I saw well-officiated games, and from at least one referee, some gentle encouragement and instruction for young players.
While officiating a fourth-grade boys game, a referee named John helped players find their spots as they lined up for a free throw and nudged them to the sideline when one of the teams called a timeout.
During the timeout, he noticed my son Paul, a uniformed fifth-grade player watching from the sidelines and approached him to give some tips on the game.
The referee asked my son, “You don’t play with alligator arms, do you?” He explained that alligators have short arms that don’t work well for basketball. He told Paul he should have spider arms instead, long and extended. And John showed him how to position his arms to effectively block shots and passes. And the referee told Paul where to keep his eyes, too: on an opposing player’s belly button, not on his head.
The time out ended, but John kept returning during game breaks to teach Paul and let him know what he should be practicing during the off-season, including this tip: Don’t practice 3-pointers, work on free throws first and then move around for other shots inside the 3-point line.
During the game, John occasionally would look over at Paul when a player did something that reinforced his teaching. If the ref was close enough, he’d ask Paul if he saw how that basket was made, how the player positioned his arms for the shot.
The game was a lopsided win for St. Columbkille’s fourth-grade team, so there wasn’t much pressure on John as he refereed. He used the opportunity to teach, encourage and make friends, including some St. Columbkille sixth-grade boys when they stopped by to watch.
John the referee reminded me of what youth basketball should be – competition, instruction, fun.
by the Year of Faith, Susan Szalewski began writing weekly columns for
us. Although that year is over, we liked them so well that we asked her
to keep writing. Thankfully, she said yes. So watch for these on
Thursdays and see the Year of Faith Blog here.
During the 40 Days for Life, Respect Life members from St. Columbkille have committed to praying at the abortion site in Bellevue on Thursdays from 10:30 to noon. The site is open more often on Thursdays because the number of people praying on Saturdays has affected their operation.
In addition, we have committed to praying for 24 hours outside the site from 8 a.m. Saturday March 28 and ending at 8 a.m. on Sunday, March 29th (Palm Sunday.) Anyone interested in praying is invited to call the Parish Office at 402-339-3285.