Dad finds fun in 'family' practice

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I never expected to be on the practice squad at my age.

But there I was on Saturday, playing hoops in the driveway with my fourth-grade daughter.

For the past three winters, Bailey has played basketball every Saturday in a church league.

As she's grown older and taller, she's taken team practices more seriously.

It also means she spends more time shooting hoops on our driveway.

Unfortunately, our driveway is on a slope. As a result, Bailey has to be quick to retrieve it before it rolls into the street.

She's actually gotten pretty good at this.

As her dad, she tells me, my job is to pass her the basketball and guard her so she can work on her shot.

When I was promoted to her personal practice squad a few weekends ago, I went all out only to come up with a sore shoulder a few days later.

My muscles weren't ready for such activity, I discovered.

So last Saturday I was ready to take it easy.

But it's hard to say no to your child when she looks you eagerly in the eyes and implores you to get out of the easy chair and spend some time chasing her around the driveway, all in the name of sport.

Besides, I'm not ready to admit I can't keep up with my 10-year-old daughter.

Of course, I quickly discovered that Bailey needed more than a practice buddy.

She needed a custodian, as well.

As it turned out, I was saddled with that job too.

Bailey informed me that the basketball goal on the edge of our driveway was too low. She wanted it raised.

Naturally, it wasn't easy.

I shouldn't have been surprised. My wife and I managed to put the wrong end of the black basketball pole into the connecting pole about a year ago. This required us to call in a friend who helped us erect the basketball goal along the edge of our driveway without any further damage.

On Saturday, I discovered that raising the basketball goal required heavy lifting.

I couldn't call on my wife. She had just had major surgery.

Bailey offered to help. But we soon discovered that no arrangement of ladder, stepladder, father and daughter would work.

Bailey's heart was in it, but she just wasn't tall enough.

So I enlisted the aid of my teenager, Becca, who is in the eighth grade. She helped hold up the basketball goal from her perch on the stepstool while I shoved a bolt through a hole in the pole and then proceeded to tighten it while standing on a ladder.

By the time the task was done, I was feeling pretty good. After all, the basketball goal had been raised without any broken bones or assistance from paramedics.

I was ready for a nap.

But that didn't fit in with Bailey's practice.

I just couldn't take time-out, not after Bailey had just played an entire game at the university recreation center and scored a bunch of points.

As a proud dad, I couldn't let her shoot baskets alone.

So I spent a glorious afternoon on our driveway-turned-basketball-court.

From time to time, Bailey slowed down to let me catch my breath.

No one kept score, but I enjoyed it every time she got a basket.

No ESPN hype. No videotape. Just broad grins on the driveway.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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