|Rob shooting on the hoop at 6.5 feet.|
But I could never really play the game. Not with a real ball, on a real court, and certainly not on a 10-foot regulation hoop.
On the rare occasion that I actually got to hold a real basketball in my hands, I’d suddenly feel like a weakling. I might be able to dribble it a few times or pass it, with much effort, to someone very close by. But to really handle it, let alone shoot it, felt impossible. It never made much sense to me. People seemed to handle a basketball so effortlessly. Sure, I’m not very big, including my hands, and my cerebral palsy complicates everything. But it seemed strange to have so little ability play with an actual basketball.
Yet, several years ago, when I noticed the Y that I workout at had a couple basketball nets that were much lower than the regulation 10-foot rims, I instantly wanted to try them out. Eventually, I went to the Y in my manual wheelchair to shoot baskets on a 6-foot hoop that was meant for kids.
I think I made one basket that day. I was terrible. Instead of shooting, I felt like I was heaving the ball just to get it near the rim.
And I loved every minute of it. Wednesdays became my day to shoot.
Simply moving around on a court, I felt like a kid having fun. It was almost like recapturing something CP had taken from me. Those who love the game know how easy it is to get lost in shooting hoops. I could miss 10 in a row, and all I wanted to do was make the next shot. The sound of the ball swishing through the cotton of the net is the sweetest music on any court.
Unfortunately, the fun only lasted about six months. I was also playing power wheelchair hockey at the time and developed bursitis in my left shoulder. Driving the wheelchair with right-handed controls with my more spastic left hand (leaving my right to use the stick) created the problem. The shoulder just wouldn’t heal, and I shut down everything in an effort to let it recover.
Fast-forward to a year ago December. After trying several other remedies for my bursitis with varying degrees of success, I began working with a wellness coach at the Y to try to finally get the soreness out of my shoulder. It didn’t hurt that we had connected on a personal level, and were soon calling each other “big sis’” and “little bro’,” but that’s another story. She took the time to really watch me do my rehab exercises, offered some adjustments, and showed me some new exercises that I could really do effectively.
Finally, my shoulder was improving. And I couldn’t wait to try hoops again. I got some added motivation after I mentioned my plan to shoot again to my sis’, who instantly challenged me to a shootout someday.
I started shooting last February. I went from hoping to hit one basket and slowly progressed to having a goal of making 30 shots per day. Shooting twice a week became three and, recently, four times a week.
As much as I loved shooting on the 6-foot high rim on my own, I really wanted to be able to play, even just shoot around, with others. My big sis’ followed through on shooting with me, and we play together whenever we get the chance. But I want to be able to shoot around with her and have it be fun for both of us. (She’d say it’s fun now, and I believe her, but I also know her incredible patience comes into play, as it does with much of what we do together.) I also want to play with my brothers, nephews, and nieces. And I don’t want to have to haul everyone to the Y to play on the net that just happens to be available. I slowly realized that I needed to set my sights higher.
To be precise, I needed to set my sights four feet higher. And that became a whole new challenge.
READ PART II here.