Saturday, July 14, 2012

Basketball and Bullies

Jalen's new favorite past time is basketball.  From early rise to late in the evening you can likely find Jalen outside shooting baskets or playing a game with friends.  During our last library visit, Jalen checked out several basketball books, so he could 'learn' more about the game, players, etc.  It's so funny to watch him running between the hoop and his books trying out some new drills or moves.

One of the things Jalen has been looking forward to this summer is going to Basketball Camp.  We hoped summer plans as a donor would not interfere with his week of camp.  Thankfully a delay with insurance approvals allowed him to attend without interruption. We've been working with Jalen on several aspects of his game.  It was really exciting to see him go in on the first day draining shots during the open shooting with confidence.  He had a great first day and was equally excited to go back.

The second day, Jalen came home to tell me that one of the campers was hitting him and giving him a hard time.  Jalen has a sweet spirit and a very even-keeled personality.  He's not confrontational, but he is quick to share with us when something has happened that has hurt or upset him.  I was not happy to hear that he'd been singled out by yet another bully.  He shared that he'd asked the little boy to stop and leave him alone, but he persisted.  I told Jalen he did the right thing in insisting the boy leave him alone and in coming home to tell us what happened.  I also expressed how I wanted him to handle this situation and the next step would be to talk to the Coach or the Camp Director.   Jalen also mentioned how they talked about 'respect' at camp and how he did not 'feel' respected by this little boy.  Whoa...yes we will address this in the morning.  I took a moment to send the Camp Director a quick message simply outlining what Jalen had shared.  I let him know Jalen would be speaking with him or the Coach about the situation and I would only get involved if needed.

The next morning Jalen did not want to go to camp.  He gave me excuses about how the outdoor drills made him sweat, which I was not buying.  Is this the same kid that wanted to play basketball outside when it was 102 degrees? *enter the Family Feud strike*...wrong answer son.  I explained to him that he was going to camp.   I reminded him of all the friends he'd made and told him not to allow one person to ruin that for him *as my Dad used to monkey don't stop no show*.  He reluctantly got dressed and we went to camp. When we arrived Jalen asked the Camp Director if he could speak with him for a moment.  As the conversation unfolded, he inquired about who the camper was.  Jalen's face looked concerned as if he didn't want to get the boy in trouble or perhaps 'appear' as a tattle tale.  I shared with Jalen that he didn't have to go point the boy out to us, he could simply tell us what he was wearing and that seemed to make him feel better.  The offender was identified and I left very proud of my son for stepping up and addressing this issue himself.  Incidentally there had been a few other complaints about this particular boy and his 'doesn't play well with others' status.  The issues were discussed directly with the little boy and his family.  This was also used as a topic of conversation to the group reinforcing respect, teamwork and self-discipline.

On the flip side, I shared with my son that no one has the right to put their hands on him.  I also told him sometimes people mistake your kindness for weakness.  Jalen is a very compassionate, loving boy with a heart for others.  He gets it honestly, but I told him in some instances he 'might' have to show these kids what they are working with. Jalen is a self-described baller, ninja warrior, wrestler.  So you might just want to back up off and give that brother some space.  I don't condone violence, but I'm not going to sit around and have my son serve as anyone's punching bag.  There are times you have to protect yourself and put a end to the madness.  With that behind us, the remaining days of camp were a blast. 

As with any sport repetition is key.  Jalen has several things to continue working on, but this week of camp really helped to put some of the pieces together for him.  He's dribbling better, driving to the basket with authority, dropping shots all across the key. His game has definitely come up a notch. On the last day of camp he came to the car with his certificate in hand, expressing his desire to play on a team and to return in August for the second camp.  Our hope for the week was that Jalen would have fun, receive solid instruction and look forward to playing and getter better. It's evident to us those initiatives were achieved and being a part of this program was a success for him. 


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