On Wednesday, I was a person. On Thursday, I was a person who played basketball.
My decision to join the “All-Star” girls basketball league, a free after-school basketball team, was last-minute. The practice was to start at five-thirty, Thursday. Tiffany IMed me to ask if I wanted to join at about four-thirty, Thursday. After much hmming and hawing, I decided I would join. I have softball on Mondays, Wednesdays, and weekends. Basketball was to take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Perfect.
One thing that Tiffany failed to mention while giving me the details was the name of the coach, who just happened to be Mr. Genise. He barked out orders and demanded us to “run through the defense pattern.” Esha, another first-timer, and I were pulled aside and instructed to watch. Three girls were running in random directions on each side of the court, the ball switching hands as girls scurried past each other. Their stampeding feet traced an impossibly complicated pattern on the slippery court, each sneaker squeaking as they criss-crossed and looped past each other to a silent but steady rhythm. I looked on, bewildered. I did not know how to dribble a ball. I did not know how to pass a ball. Mr. Genise made no attempt to teach Esha and I, preferring to let us wander through a confused haze when he stuck one of us on each side of the court and expected us to be all caught up. “Jenny, take the right wing!” he ordered. I looked down at the court. I didn’t see any wings. One girl made a subtle gesture towards one of the curvy lines. I gratefully jogged over and stood in the appropriate place. When the whistle blew and the girls started up their strange dance of zig-zags and cross-backs, I continued to stand. Where in the world was I supposed to go? Genise was pissed. He stormed over and shoved me towards a white square, referred to as “the block.” I ran over to “the block.” Then I glanced back at him to see that he was making [what were in my opinion excessively big] “come-here!!!” motions with his arms. When I reluctantly scuttled back, he gave me a quick but memorable lecture about “timing.” Then a ball was thrust into my hands by one of the other players. “Take top!” bellowed Genise. That sentence does not make sense. “Take top” doesn’t mean anything. I don’t think that “take top” is even considered a sentence. Later, though, I learned that it meant to stroll on over to the half-court line. Then I was to fake a pass to my left and pass to my right. I still didn’t even know how to pass, but since I wasn’t yelled at, I think I might have done it correctly. After several centuries of screwups and confusion, the defense pattern started to carve its way into my brain. Pass, cut left, cut right, run to wing. Run to block, run to wing, run to block, run to top. But still, there was “timing” and angles and measurements, plenty of things for me to mess up. As soon as I started to understand what the heck I was supposed to do, though, we were called in and herded into the gym. Time to shoot baskets.
Thankfully, Genise actually took the time to teach us newbies how to shoot before directing us towards the courts. Right angles on your arms, right foot in front of left, bend knees, snap wrist, roll it off the index. As long as I was able to recall all this minutiae, I could swoosh balls through baskets. Genise smiled. The whistle blew. Practice was over. Afterwards, Tiffany asked me if I was going to stay on the team, or quit. I wasn’t sure. My sport is softball, and it has been for the past five years. I need the dry, dusty must of softball fields settling into my throat and choking me until I suffocate with pleasure. The sweat and adrenaline of basketball overpowering my senses and pumping through my veins is just not my thing. Plus, Genise is the kind of dude who can pull off sweatpants and a straw hat, with muscles in his pinky fingers and an endless supply of energy. Any sport he is introduced to, he can pick up with ease. A round, knobby basketball was placed into my hands on Thursday, but without me knowing what to do with it. Genise made no effort to educate me in the grand old world of “b-ball.” He does not have the ability to teach a sport. He is able to take people who already know how to play a sport and boss them around.
Practice ended at seven. The world was quiet and dark. As I walked home, alone in a sea of blackness, I made my decision and decided to stick with the team. It was about time Genise took a person who royally sucked and turned them into an average player. He should know how to teach people, not just order them around. I would be the pawn in my own experiment to turn domineering Genise into what he is supposed to be: a P.E. teacher.