Basketball is a lot of fun, and a great workout. But it’s not an easy game for beginners.
I LIKE THE IDEA of lacing up sneakers; grabbing a basketball; and heading out for a fun, energetic afternoon with friends.
But then I remember basketball is a team sport, and I might get pushed, or smacked in the face while defending or being defended, and my enthusiasm wanes.
I also know basketball is great exercise. So I took a gentle approach to learning why it is so beloved. My fiancé, Chris, who has been playing basketball since childhood, took me to a court to show me the basics. I hoped he would be kind.
First, we practiced how to shoot. I shot a couple of baskets, missing entirely. He talked me through form: Hold one hand underneath to support the ball, and flick it with your other hand. The wrist flick gets some spin when shooting, giving the ball a better chance of going in if it hits the rim.
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I also had to confront my challenges with geometry and practice layups against the backboard. It took quite a few before those started to land in the basket instead of bouncing back at me. I even started to make some longer jump shots.
We moved on to dribbling. I was terrible at dribbling. Chris told me not to look at the ball while dribbling. But how will I know where it is? Still, I tried. Chris had me work on dribbling from my right to left hand and back and forth to get a feel for it. He also showed me how to dribble low, which keeps the ball closer to you and makes it harder for opponents to steal the ball. Because I’m 5 feet 3, I’m pretty sure I already have the low advantage, which I later learned is not an advantage for defense.
Chris added in layup warm-ups. I dribbled down one side of the court, did a layup, then switched with him. We also worked on passing, throwing it back and forth. I used both hands to add more punch with my passes. I had to practice not traveling during the passing, and I also occasionally dribbled with both hands at the same time. That is, apparently, against the rules.
Thankfully, I landed a few layups and was plenty warm from the running.
We decided to play a game of H-O-R-S-E. I hit one shot. I did better when we played a “real” game to three points. Chris, who is almost 9 inches taller than me, had the advantage. He played nice when I was dribbling and trying to shoot. But when it was his turn, he used his size to get me out of the way, spin around and shoot. I had no chance to block his shot. When defending me, at one point, he lifted his hand and batted the ball easily out of my hands.
“You’re not genetically predisposed to basketball,” he observed.
He suggested I try to get the ball away from him while he was dribbling, which I did once, successfully. I was proud to score once during our one-on-one game.
We went back to shooting. I stood in one place, and he told me to keep going until I hit at least half of my 10 shots. I practiced my wrist flick on my jump shot. Three sets in, I still didn’t hit my goal.
We changed to layups. Amazingly enough, my brain had figured out the backboard, and I hit 6 of 10. Success!
I’m not ready to play with other people in a live team setting, but at least I can now play one-on-one. I’ll take the improvement.