by Cathy Marciniak
Max was 6'2" in seventh grade. When he played club basketball during middle school, the coaches were held to a very strict set of rules: every player plays, every game, and no player gets more than 4 minutes on the court; no exceptions. This is about fun, and sportsmanship, after all, and fairness means everyone gets the same thing. In his 4 minutes Max consistently scored 18 points or more, until the opposing teams caught on to the strategy of fouling him out in the first 70 seconds.
By the 9th grade he was 6'8", and there were fewer constraints on his playing. He got used to certain assumptions made about him -- that he only got good grades because he was a star athlete, for example, or that he was a ball hog, that he only scored so well because of his height, that he was undisciplined. He loved to play, but frequently wished that he could be just tall, or just an average athlete.
Now he's in 12th grade and 7 feet tall. Everywhere but the basketball court, where his height is an advantage, he's a freak. Girls won't date him, guys make stupid jokes about how the weather is up there and call him "Stretch," as though that's original. He's being scouted by division I universities, and it looks like he may -- finally -- be coached by someone who knows what he's doing, who can make him sweat and learn skills he doesn't have yet, and where he may actually have some serious competition.
Max knows that division I coaches get EXACTLY 9.9 scholarships per year, to allocate for the entire team. Now, he would be happy to be an invited walk-on, for a shot at a real challenge, but he gets signed by Hoops U. The day he signs the commitment letter, someone in the booster club congratulates him and adds, "I know just how you feel. My son is 5'11". Honestly, I think we put way too much emphasis on sports and not enough on whether you're a good person."
The local paper carries an editorial: "All students are athletes. Every single one. I mean it." When half the populations of Indiana and North Carolina say, "Lady, you're an idiot," the writer submits a clarification. She really meant to say, "all students have an athletic ability. Some are good at badminton or dodgeball, some at division I basketball, and really, isn't love the most important thing?"