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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 12.15.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Got game? "Dribbling" is not the same as "drooling"

There's a reason why I've never signed my kids up for hockey. Besides receiving regular thumpings by hockey players as a child, that is. The reason is the 8 a.m. game.

But last weekend I found myself shotgunning coffee before racing across the border to Newport, Vermont, for an 8 o'clock basketball game. Fortunately, this was a game involving 6- and 7-year-olds, so at least the day started with a laugh.

With first-graders, basketball is less a game than a colour-coordinated play date.

But it's still a game, which is why I love basketball. There aren't many other team sports that a 6-year-old can play after only three practices. Not play well, of course, but play. And unlike hockey, there's virtually no likelihood of a teammate saying, "Hey, I dare you to touch your tongue to this icy pole."

Plus there are no blades to sharpen, no laces to do up, no body armour to buy. All you need is a pair of running shoes. Which is another reason I like basketball -- I'm cheap.

There's also the uniform, which, in Abby's league is included with registration. Hers is a fluorescent lime T-shirt and black shorts. This may be Abby's favourite element of the game. She proudly lifts her sweater to show anyone interested that she's playing basketball and, see, she has a shirt!

I'm pretty fond of the shirt myself, mainly because the über-vibrant colour makes it easy to spot her and her teammates when they've wandered off to inspect something gross on the underside of a bench.

This is actually a very important aspect of coaching youngsters: keeping track of wayward players.

Besides acting as child-wranglers, the coaches at this level also act as game refs, so there are a lot of on-floor instructions and do-overs. The rules for 6-year-olds are also somewhat broader than in your traditional game. I've jotted down some of the more significant:

1. It's important to have proper footwear, preferably shoes that light up when you run.

2. There are three key positions in basketball: mob, melee, and daydreaming.

3. Ask yourself, "Do I really need to dribble? Isn't it much simpler just to run with the ball?"

4. Double-dribbling is perfectly fine. Triple-dribbling, quadruple-dribbling, whatever. All good.

5. The best way to run the court is by skipping.

6. To help with man-to-man coverage, players are assigned coloured wristbands to match up with like-coloured player on the opposite teams. Red wristbands are clearly the coolest.

7. When the ref blows the whistle, feel free to continue play until your coach leaves the bench to physically restrain you.

8. Bathroom breaks are mandatory at least twice per quarter.

9. Ditto visits to the water fountain.

10. Be sure to chat with your opponent during key plays.

11. It's also just good manners to hand the ball over to an opposing team member. Sharing is important. Hugging is encouraged.

12. Don't get hung up on the whole "our basket/their basket" business. Really, either basket will do.

13. Wow! What a pretty shirt!

14. When you are not on the floor, you may sit on the bench or your mom's lap. Your call.

15. Play stops when one of the following occurs: a) the ball goes out of bounds b) a player commits a foul c) a player is sulking in the key.

16. Do not catch the ball with your face. However, a ball off the top of your head is just good comedy.

17. As in any pursuit, you will achieve more power and concentration if you play with your tongue sticking out.

18. There are no sacks in basketball.

19. When you score a basket, it's important to grin widely at your parents on the sideline. Feel free to clap along. Dancing is acceptable. Victory laps, however, are discouraged.

20. There is no scoring at this level. It is a scientific fact, however, that every game ends in a tie.

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