A brave girl, a basketball, and a gymful of boys

I shouldn’t have been surprised by what happened on Saturday morning.  Still, I was.

I’ve always known Mitzi is brave.  Bold.  Confident.  When she was less than 2 years old she approached a group of older girls (3rd or 4th grade, it seemed to me at the time) at the playground and said hi.  She was unfazed when they ignored her.  She pressed on.   She did the same thing at a different playground 2 years later, and found new friends for all of us just a few weeks after we moved to a new town.

Then, the diabetes.  Because I know only my daughter, her experience, her behavior, to me it is all normal and expected.  But her school nurse, her teacher, her principal — heck, just about any other adult who knows her — always comment on her maturity and responsibility when it comes to managing her condition.

So, Saturday shouldn’t have suprised me.  But it did.

Ray signed up Mitzi and Cooper — at the last minute — for a local basketball league.  Cooper had talked about it for a while, but for Mitzi, it was a sudden decision.  Ray knew of a league and registered them.  On Saturday morning both had tryouts for their age group.  Cooper went first, with all the other second grade boys who were there, a whole gym full of them.

That should’ve tipped me off.

Mitzi was in the next group, ninety minutes later.  Since we had been there already, we got to watch the rest of the third graders assemble and sign in.  As we did, it occured to me — there were no other girls suited up to play.

Turns out, while this particular league is open to boys and girls alike, most girls play in a girls’ league in town.  Huh.  Who knew?

So there’s Mitzi, with fifty third grade boys, running drills at various stations.  I watched her very closely.  She seemed to be having fun, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet as she waited her turn, grinning broadly.  Fun is what I wanted.  She didn’t seem fazed that there were no other girls.

But the last drill.  A free throw elimination.  One miss, you sit at the wall.  Sink the shot, you get back in line.  On and on they went.  Everyone made noise — cheering, stomping, clapping as kids sat down or tried again.  Until it was down to two players.

Mitzi.  And some boy.


By the last few players, the kids who were eliminated had somehow chosen their favorite to win.  Him, they applauded.  The others got a sound that sounded an awful lot like booing.  (As a side note, I found it a little unsettling that the adults in charge did not discourage the booing more actively than they did.  Which was, from my view at the other end of the court, not at all).

Boy shoots, scores.  Huge applause.  Mitzi stands at the free throw line.  Booing.  She shoots and scores.  Boy repeats to louder applause.  Mitzi faces the net.  More booing.  She misses.

The gym erupts — for all the kids, I guess, but I like to think that much of it was for my daughter, who faced down FIFTY  boys and almost beat them all.  With a skip in her pink-legging-clad steps and a toothy grin splashed across her face.

I’ve never been so feminist as I was in that moment.

The epilogue to the story is that while Mitzi could stay in the league — there is another girl who plays, apparently — she has opted to sign up for the girls’ league where her friends are.  That’s fine with me (even though I tend to think girls and boys should just play together — I mean, take softball.  Girls should just play little league for crying out loud, because who the heck can properly hold that unwieldy softball, and what the heck is with that ridiculous underhanded pitching anyway??).  Wherever she’s happy, that’s where I want her to be.

And she will always be able to look around and say, yes.  I did THAT.  Many others (myself included, at that age especially) would’ve walked off the court at the beginning.  Not my kid.  She was brave and beautiful and skilled and almost BEAT A GYMFUL OF BOYS. 

You go, girl.  I hope she never forgets the strength of that moment.


12 thoughts on “A brave girl, a basketball, and a gymful of boys

  1. that’s my girl! and so much braver than i ever was, if only i had that bravery i may have done so many activities i said i didn’t want to do as a kid. boo to the booing. how frustrating!

  2. Daddy was as proud as he’s ever been. I was standing close as the final rounds of the elimination game were taken and was there to lift Mitzi up in the air, exulting in her tremendous victory, even in defeat. Mitzi had a smile on her face the entire time. I will say that the coaches there, whom I know, were all very supportive of her and vocal in their praise of her obvious fortitude, if not diligent in their duty to discourage the apparent side-taking.

    Mitzi, for me, has always harkened back to an earlier time, as if she were simply born older, meant to be of a different period in time. Perhaps she is of the same mold of another tough and beautiful broad….
    The name fits.

  3. Pingback: Bravery « Wide Open Spaces

  4. She must get that basketball touch from her Dad because of all the sports I played basketball was my worst. I could never, ever make a foulf shot.

    Mitzi has some inner can do force that allows her to do her very best and has no fear of failure.

    I hope she keeps that “gift” forever.

    And Mom , chill out. Boys will be boys at that age and besides evryone knows girls can’t play with boys..

    But wait a few more years and they will be begging for her to be on their team.

    Let her loose to do what she wants to do . And the rest of us can eat her dust.

  5. Brava, Mitzi!!! Having guts will take you far! Can’t wait to see the woman you’ll be!! As much as this is a tribute to her, it’s also very telling about her Mom and Dad! They never tell her she can’t…..that will also take her far. Thank God I also have parents like that. Being born female was never an issue. And my Dad’s nicknames for me when we played baseball? Lefty and Slugger!!

  6. What a great story! I love that spunky girl.

    Although I have to agree, it’s highly inappropriate that any kids are allowed to BOO each other – somehow the fact that it was try outs and not even a game makes it seem even worse! Step up, grownups!

  7. What a fantastic story. You must be so proud of your inspiring daughter! I agree, that’s really worrying that nobody intervened with the booing. I really admire her for pressing on!

  8. Ray, true, the coaches were great and supportive…BUT, I did hear too much negative response when she stepped up, no matter what they tried to do. At that age, there’s nothing wrong with a sharp, loud whistle, a vocal “NO” from a strong, respected coach, to discourage the behavior. I just didn’t hear that at my end of the gym. Alas.

  9. Dad, I don’t think we can say “boys will be boys”. That’s a cop out. All boys can learn good behavior, a decent standard of sportsmanship. Booing another player during what should have been a fun exercise is inexcusable, no matter what gender that player is.

    And, well, there is nothing wrong with girl sports. But there’s no reason at this level to suggest that girls can’t compete with boys. Maybe in high school and college, when body size and composition changes so drastically that it would be ludicrous to imagine a 5′ 3″ girl playing football, or some other high-contact sport. But the others? Hmmm…. I wonder how well a chick on steroids would do in MLB. Works for the dudes…

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