I'm 15 All Over Again (but it hurts more)

Last night was my first day played basketball in a Fond du Lac rec league. Kevin asked me to be on a team a few months ago, and I thought it might be fun to play an organized sport again.

Our game was at 7:30 at Theisen Middle School. We got in there and the last game was close to over. It was between a team of 20-somethings (or so) and a team of 40-somethings (or so). The younger men were up by almost 30 points.

I leaned over to Kevin and said, “I just hope we don’t lose by 30.” He shrugged and said, “We might.”

The rest of our team arrived shortly, and we moved over to the opposite end of the bench to get ready. The gym reminded me a lot of my own middle school gym—the building was about 35 years old. When I was a freshman in high school (the last time I played an organized game of basketball), the middle school was our home floor (this was because the JV team played at the same time over at the high school).

Our uniforms wouldn’t be ready until next week, so Kevin brought some black masking tape to paste numbers on. It’s funny because you end up with the easy numbers: 1. 11. 7. 17. I was 9. I almost asked to be 5, just to be an ass.

Our opponent for the evening apparently had a number of Kevin and Dan’s (another teammate) former students on the team. That put their ages anywhere from 10-18 years younger than all of us. (At one point late in the game, I pointed at my shirt and said to Amanda, “‘Nelson Hall, 98-99.’ Most of these kids were in grade school in 98-99…”) I figured it would make for an interesting contest.

My team had never played together before, and a number of us had never met. Well, at least *I* had never met any of them besides Kevin. We definitely hadn’t played together before, and for the most part, it showed. I could tell that we have a number of guys who are smart and know how to play, but it’s a matter of getting in a rhythm and learning how to use each other’s skills.

We wisely played a 2-3 zone defense throughout the game. The kids were a lot quicker than us, but they could not shoot from outside the lane. In the first half, we got beat off the dribble a lot, but down the stretch we settled in on defense, and continued to chip away at the lead early in the second. I think we got it down to six at one point, with about 10 or 12 minutes to go.

Yeah, I guess I could offer my prescriptions for future success. Naturally, we all need to be in better shape. As the game wore on, we wore down and got sloppy at the offensive end. The kids never hit a single outside shot, so I think we held our own defensively. I think that for next week, we need to be able to draw up some simple plays, get into an offensive set, and try our best to execute. We’re gonna have to try to space the floor and give out big guys some room to work around the basket. We’ve got a number of players that are smaller guys and can probably shoot it OK, so just getting a plan together at the offensive end is going to make a big difference.

Individually, I thought I played a pretty poor game. I saved a ball on its way out of bounds at one point, and that was probably my biggest highlight. I did foul a guy on his way to the hoop off a break, but the damn thing went in anyway. I didn’t take a shot, and I had an in-bound pass picked off (although I didn’t let the thief score).

I played around 10 or 12 minutes in the first half, and 6 or so in the second. By the end of the night, I was sucking wind. I came out with around 6 minutes or so to go, and didn’t get back in. It got down to “garbage time” pretty quickly there, and no one needed to come out. I had started, but again, only because we were so disorganized out of the gate.

That reminded me a lot of high school. I started the majority of the games for my freshman team, but really only because Schenkenburg dogged it every day in practice. Then I got sick for a week during the season, and I was pretty much relegated to the bench after that…

And I know it’s just a rec league for old(er) guys, but in your mind you can’t help but make the comparisons to when you were young. I’m going to try to keep the things in mind that completely evaded me when I was in high school: I signed up to do this; it is, after all, a game; and I’ve just got to have fun and do my best. *Shrugs* It’s a long season. We’ll see how it goes.

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