Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Basketball on the rez

One of the best things that can happen to grandparents is to see grandchildren develop in the athletic arena, especially when sports have been so much a part of their own lives. Age and aching bones might have stopped their enjoyment and progress on the courts and softball fields, but competitive juices refuse to go away for many parents, grandparents and great grandparents. To see it carried on in grandchildren is a truly rewarding time.

In our case, we played softball for years then that slacked up in time. Our oldest daughter took up fast-pitch and she really worked at it and turned into a top pitcher. We hauled her to games all over Northeast Kansas and Missouri. She won a state championship while playing at Lake Shawnee and she went on to play for one year at Highland Junior College where she set records for wins and strikeouts.

And much later youth basketball started to gain popularity on the Potawatomi reservation and our grandchildren took up the sport although we would have sooner they played softball. But the basketball fever spread to the old folks as well. Our oldest granddaughter Tara was a starter on the Royal Valley High School team for three years. She started out slow but made tremendous progress. In one game, she had 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 assists. At 5'9", she was tall for a guard and had quick hands. In another game, she scored 35 points against Nemaha Valley and that’s the most points I ever witnessed from a girl or a boy at the high school level. She ended up first team all-league for her last two years.

The stands suddenly become a big social event and visiting was on the upsurge. Relatives of the players marked their calendars and load up their cars to see the basketball games. We did the same thing as with our daughter, we went to almost every game no matter where it was at. Our grandson Nyeh Waskeh played in high school and sometimes it was a challenge but we made most of his games too. Nyeh Washeh enjoyed playing basketball with his many friends and scored a high of 17 points. We watched them both develop, learning the fundamentals and they enjoyed playing the game. High school basketball is a level where fun is still there. A $4 entry fee to see your grandchildren play is more than worth it.

Our routine was similar every week. We went to work, came home, change into comfortable clothes and loaded up Maynard Potts, who at the time was 90 years old, and whoever else was riding on that particular day, and head off to Royal Valley High School games. He enjoyed watching Tara and Nyeh play basketball – a real fan. After paying the entry fee and eating the ball-game meal of hot dogs and popcorn, we sat in the stands and wait for the game to start. The only regret is that there weren’t more food choices at games. It was good times though.

Tara and Nyeh both graduated from high school. Tara went on to two years of junior college where it was no longer fun and she eventually married and moved away to California. Now we go to our youngest grandson, Pat ko shuk’s basketball games at the Whitson Elementary School on Saturday mornings. I about jumped off the bleachers when he scored his first two points. It was the same feeling I had watching my daughter and my other grandchildren play, a feeling that I can’t explain but I’m glad I was there. The whole experience is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.


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