Anyone who knows me very well has heard about my frustrations with the following situation since September. Well, congrats to all of you who put up with my endless indignation over what I am about to, for the final time, vent my feelings concerning. (A special thanks to Shey, who has singlehandedly prevented a number of homicides on behalf of “innocent” administrators, parents, coaches, and referees.)

Next week, Reagan will wrap up her Elementary Basketball career. She played for the first time last year and loved it. In fact, she was the first to sign up this year. As it got closer and closer for the season to begin, we had not received word from the school about a game schedule, even though the Jr. High and High School schedules had long been posted on the school website. So, I inquired from the secretary, via email, about when we might be expecting an elementary basketball schedule. Shortly after sending my email, I received a call from the Elementary Principal. Based on our conversation, which was a bit confusing, it sounded as though the entire basketball program for elementary students had been changed. Sure enough, I emailed the Headmaster and was told that, “Due to the number of students that have signed up, we are going to play all games here (at our school) and divide our teams.”

Okay – in case that didn’t make sense, let me break it down for you.

Basically, because so many 6th grade BOYS signed up to play elementary basketball, there would have been 24 boys on one team. Not all of them would have had “fair and equal” playing time so, even though the SAME number of 6th grade GIRLS signed up as last year, the kids were divided up and played each other’s teams instead of other schools. We ended up with 3 (6th grade) boys teams and 2 (6th grade) girls teams. Each Monday night for a total of about 9 games, we go to the school, pay $2 a head, and watch our kids play against their classmates.

Now, I don’t know how many, if any, of you have or have had an 11 or 12 year old daughter, or have ever been an 11 or 12 year old girl, but it’s a pretty rough time. Your body is changing. You’re finding out who your friends are, and figuring out who you are, and basically setting the tone for what your Junior High and High School years are going to be like. When I was that age, girls were mean. This generation of tweens takes “mean” to a whole new level. And the worst possible idea that I could possibly think of is to take 12 or 13 girls who might one day be on a team TOGETHER and pit them AGAINST each other in a physically aggressive sport like basketball.

As parents, we were told that these games would be treated just as though they were playing a rival school and refereed in the same manner. I have watched so many shenanigans go on in these elementary games that I have begun to wonder if our ref needs to have cataract surgery. Because he sure hasn’t been watching some of the same games I have watched.

We were also told that the dividing up of the teams would be based on “evaluations” by the Jr. Varsity and Varsity Basketball coaches. They were just going to kinda watch the kids play around and see who had what skill sets and it wasn’t going to be a “tryout”, yadda, yadda, yadda.

So, Reagan gets put on a team and she’s pretty happy because a couple of good friends are on the team, so, despite the fact that she was VERY unhappy about the changes to the whole program, after she got in her mind who her teammates would be, she was feeling much better.

Then, they couldn’t get a coach for our team, so they swapped Reagan with another girl so the other girl’s Dad could coach.

Just when she had her mind right and was ready to get started, they swapped my daughter and she was right in the position I was afraid she’d be in: competing against some of her best friends.

My frustrations have run deep on this issue.

Not only did the school change the entire elementary basketball program without so much as an opinion poll to the parents who PAY THE SALARIES OF ADMINISTRATORS, but they also didn’t take into consideration the long-term effects that these changes would have on relationships between their students. When I chose to send my child to a private school, one of the main reasons I did was so that I could have more of a voice than I would in our local public school system. And believe me, our school has heard my voice. Repeatedly. So have the other parents. So has the Booster Club. So has my hair stylist, my garbage man, and my cat. I have been beyond pissed.

The so called “evaluations” of the players worked out really well though. We have lost all of our games thus far, with 2 left to play. And Reagan’s position on the opposite team usually has 2 players to rotate out while Reagan ends up toting the whole of that position for the entire game.

I think in Reagan’s entire 5th grade season we only won 2 games out of 10, but the girls were ONE TEAM. And that’s a whole lot different than losing to your classmates and having to face them each and every day of the week.

As usual though, Reagan has handled this so much better than I have. I’ve been ready to have someone’s head on a platter for 4 months and, while the losses have been tough, she has not said to me one time, “I wish I could just quit.” and that has made me prouder than anything.

Before their most recent game, Reagan and I had a brief talk beforehand. I told her to play her very best defense and focus on blocking every shot she could (she’s the tallest one on her team and always right under the goal). They hadn’t practiced for 3 weeks and she was sick and missed their last game so she hadn’t played in about a month. And let me just tell you, that kid ROCKED her defense. If she played that aggressively all the time, people would probably knock each other down to get out of her way in the hallways at school.

One of my other reasons for being so upset about this is the fact that it made a lot of girls not want to play at all. And, to me, to potentially discourage a child from trying or playing a sport that they love or might be really good at, is an unforgivable thing. Equivocal to breaking a child’s spirit.

And while Reagan HAS handled all of the emotions tied up with this situation quite well, it has still been a difficult set of circumstances. It’s required a lot of strength of mind and “being the bigger person” and playing her best even though she knew the game was already lost.

I guess that’s what has made me so angry.

She has her ENTIRE LIFE to have to have and do those things.

Every day of my LIFE requires me to “be a bigger person” and play some type of losing game. I just didn’t want my daughter to have to start doing it at 12 years old.

I’ve been struggling with the fact that this girl of mine is growing up. Every time I look at her, a little bit more of the “little girl” is gone. I’ve done my best for 12 years, through some rough circumstances, to shield Reagan from some of the ugly realities and cold, hard truths of life. Shouldn’t we get to hold on to our innocence and protect our children’s innocence for as long as possible?

But, again, instead of shielding her, I end up having to talk her through. Reassure her that life isn’t ALWAYS unfair – just a lot of the time. Remind her that it’s her effort and attitude that counts – not the score. Encourage her to never stop trying and never be afraid to stand up and say, “This is not right.” even when nobody will stand with you.

I realize there have been good lessons in all of this. But the good lessons are rarely easy. And, sometimes, just because I love her so much, I wish the good lessons were not quite so hard.

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