To continue the Basketball story from 11-6: As it turned out, Big Boy was in a separate session than his sister, so he had to make his own way. He arrived very nervous, but excited. He had never played basketball in his life. He met Zack and actually backed up as Zack came to say hello - not so unusual but fairly off putting. Zack ignored it and simply put his handout and Big Boy recognized the greeting ritual we have practiced so many times. He shook hands and shyly said hello. Zack took him off to meet the rest of the coaches while I went to sit upstairs and quietly pray under my breath that this not turn into the disaster it had the potential to be. There were about 30-40 boys there, ready to play some serious basketball in a 4 on 4 setting, rotating half courts. I did mention Big Boy didn’t play, right? Ugh. Chances were very good that he would not even talk to his team mates, or possibly not remember the rules. We had been to the library and gotten several books on basketball. He read them all cover to cover. He can learn anything if he can read it. However, if things dont seem logical to him, he can refuse to comply with rules. Once teams were formed up the drills began and Big Boy did alright. He was actually doing well enough (my definition of that was that he was not lying on the floor, picking his nose or doing something wildly inappropriate) that I left for a while to play taxi for my daughter. The teams were fixed and the mini games had begun by the time I returned. I was really surprised to see that Big Boy was running around the court at least trying to be in the right position and play. He got the ball maybe three or four times and he either missed the shots or actually missed catching the ball entirely. The upshot being he wasnt passed the ball anymore. Not that I blame his team mates - these kids were here to play and win. In truth, I was just happy he was running around sweating. His normal position is prone, watching something or reading, exerting no energy beyond breathing. We worry a lot about Big Boys health. He eats very little in the vegetable world - cucumbers are it really. He loves, craves really, starches. Meat is a limited food by him. With no exercise, we worry about his prospects in life for being healthy and developing heart issues. A running Big Boy was not really something I had seen before. Watching him try so hard was something to behold. I actually called my husband, who was out of town on business, and told him about Big Boy sweating and running. He was pleased and a wee bit skeptical. Big Boys team mates seemed to not really know what to do with him, giant that he was without a ball skill in sight. They were tolerant enough, which was fine by me. He was having a good time even if he wasnt really getting the ball much. One young man seemed to herd him during court changes so he didnt get lost. Big Boy has an active mind - and it’s constantly active. By constantly, I mean he is always thinking, reading, re-reading in his mind or half play acting out a recalled book on knights and battles. Consequently, he has always had a terrible time sleeping because he cannot turn his mind off. He also has an odd way of semi-acting out a battle, replete with noises and arm motions, no matter what else is going on around him or where he is. That lack of seeing expressions means he does not get the clues that such behavior is frowned on or thought of as odd by others, even in the midst of a pitched battle in his head. It was apparent by the end of the day 1 that he was liking it. By day 2 he was seriously enjoying himself - playing a sport. Someone call the Vatican. I called his father with moment by moment updates. I talked to Zack on day 2 and said that perhaps he should mention to Big Boys team mates that he had Aspergers Syndrome / Autism. It was fine for them to know and sometimes we have found that when people know, the odd parts of Big Boy become understandable and seem let weird. He must have told them, because the two best players on his team were feeding him the ball that afternoon once they were a bit ahead. Big Boy would get it, turn and (without dribbling) shuffle a bit to be in better position and shoot. He wasnt really making it, but he was over the moon happy. The other teams seemed willing to let his travelling slide. The coaches were positioned at every team match and they seemed to have a lid on everything going on. Big Boy was so excited when he shot that you would think he had scored. He was getting atta boys for the attempts from his coaches and he soared. Never seen him that happy. Towards the end of the afternoon, he was playing in the front court where the coach was Spike Albrecht. He had several shots that missed and was still happy with his atta boy from Spike. Big Boy liked Spike for some reason, I think because he seemed to talk to him like he was just a normal person, the way Zack Novak did. In any case, I remember what happened next like it was a championship game. Big Boy was standing under the basket. He had his hands up (he spent the entire time of every game with his hands in the air). The plays were going on around him. The two best boys on his team had been feeding him the ball from time to time. The one who was particularly good was driving in from the half court from left towards the center. He went slightly passed the top of the key and then looked over at Big Boy and passed him the ball. Big Boy caught it and (still without dribbling) shuffled over a wee bit to be positioned better, looked up at the basket and with the most earnest face of determination, shot the ball. It bounced around the rim for a few seconds, trying to decide how to fall. It felt like an age before it decided what to do. I could see Big Boy willing it to go in, Zack at half court watching it roll around, Big Boys team mates paused and his court coach Spike looked at it, hands half way up in hope. The other team didnt seem to notice the moment one way or the other, but then why would they. The ball dropped into the net. Big Boy smiled. A small cheer came from several quarters, smiles all around, Spike gave Big Boy a high five (Im not sure which one was smiling more) and was followed by his team mates. I watched it all with tears in my eyes realizing I was watching Big Boy get his first high five in sports. That first taste of satisfaction in accomplishing something athletic. It was a small victory. It was insignificant to the world at large but it was a moment of belonging for Big Boy. It seemed that God, in whatever benevolence He was dispensing that day, deemed it worthwhile to give this one gigantic, special, challenged boy, a moment of his own. It was priceless. I called Big Boys father and told him about the score. He was shocked. He also knew just how amazing this moment was, this connection to basketball that Big Boy discovered. He was scheduled to be away two more days and would have missed seeing any of the camp. Knowing that moments like this are rare in our sons life, he did the smart thing and begged off his work a day early and drove home to watch the last day of camp. Big Boy didnt score as well the last day, but he had just as much fun. The boys on his team were now easy with him. He felt comfortable with the coaches. He was excited that his father was home to see him play. He played, he sweated, he ran, he shot, he loved it. Big Boy got a chance to meet some of the best players in the world that week, who turned out to be some really nice fairly regular boys. He got to play a game that offered him some fun, some confidence and the elusive camaraderie that evades him in the rest of his life. He also found a sport that he liked and wanted to play. For that last one, I am most grateful. It may help him live longer and be healthier to have an athletic pursuit. Big Boy got his shirt signed by the coaches on the last day. He has that shirt pinned up on his wall now and he re reads the names of Caris LaVert, Nik Stauskas, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan frequently. He remarks about Jordan Morgan wearing a Dexter Basketball shirt one day (our school). He also has 3 photos on his bureau; one with him and Spike Albrecht (Big Boy will tell you that Spike told him he doesnt normally take photos with people who are taller than him, but he would make an exception for Big Boy and that Spike did dunk the ball during the show off time, but only because Mitch McGary picked him up), one with him and Mitch McGary (Big Boy will tell you that Mitch is taller than he is and gave a boy who asked his shoes. Mitch can dunk the ball without anyone picking him up). There is one more photo in the center of the other two, and in this one, Big Boy is smiling big. (Big Boy, among the other things, cannot fake smile, apparently another gift from his Asperger’s. We have countless school pictures of him trying to smile and looking like a deaths head baring its teeth at you.) In the photo he has his arm around Zack Novak, who has his own arm linked over Big Boys shoulder. The smile says it all. I wrote Zack an email to thank him for allowing Big Boy to play. It was a life changing moment. A gift that was freely given and has paid amazing dividends in the life of Big Boy, but more on that later.
Posted on: Wed, 13 Nov 2013 20:57:06 +0000
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