Entering unfamiliar territory.

Tryouts for our town’s travel basketball program are tonight, and I’m a nervous wreck. I’m not even trying out.

You see, travel basketball starts in 4th grade, and Michael has been talking about it since FIRST grade. It’s the only travel sport he has ever wanted to play.

His older brother has always played in-town sports. No tryout necessary – just practice once a week, play a game once a week, and call it a day. I’ve seen Matthew through plenty of “tryouts,” but they’ve all been auditions, in  a world I’m more comfortable and familiar with.

So tonight, I’ll be taking my 9-year-old to the high school gym, where a bunch of people I don’t know will evaluate I’m not sure which skills until well past his bedtime. I don’t know how he will do, or when we will find out how these strangers think he did. While I know that Michael loves basketball and is good at it, I don’t know how good he is relative to the other I-don’t-know-how-many kids who are also trying out for what I’ve heard are 36 slots on three teams.


To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this whole thing. I really want him to make a travel team, because it’s something that he wants so much. But I don’t love some of the things I’ve felt the need to say to someone who is still, let’s face it, a little kid.

I don’t like that yesterday at our annual block party, it was nearly killing me that he wasn’t practicing basketball, knowing the tryout was 24 hours away. What WAS he doing? Playing football and soccer, and running around with his friends. Exactly what a 9-year-old OUGHT to be doing on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when everyone on the street is outside too. But part of me was concerned; would playing football instead of practicing basketball give some other kid the edge? Was he going to hurt himself or get so worn out that he’d be too tired to do well at the tryout?

I wasn’t sure if playing goalie on his soccer team (or at recess at school, for that matter) was a good idea, since he sprained his wrist playing goalie about a month ago at camp. I’ve been paranoid that the level of practice he’s done (playing most every day at camp over the summer, a few private coaching sessions with friends who have played at at high levels, and shooting in our driveway) can never compete with the skills clinics, private basketball camps and private coaching that other kids have experienced.

So, we’re telling Michael (who is definitely a little nervous, because even at this age, he understands what’s at stake tonight) to just try his best, and we’re all hoping he’ll make it. We explain to him that he just wants to play basketball because he loves it, and if he doesn’t make a travel team, there’s still an in-town league and a few others, so he can still play basketball.

Because here’s the bottom line. My kid isn’t going to the NBA. He’s not getting a college basketball scholarship. He barely cracks 55 pounds, and he’s shorter than most of his peers. I hope that he makes a travel team. And I hope that if he doesn’t, he’ll still love basketball and will want to play. It’s tough that there’s this kind of pressure on kids who still drink chocolate milk and need a babysitter.  I hope that our decision to have our kid play other sports, and run around and just be a kid, isn’t going to take away the love he has for this sport.


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