Basketball and my muscular dystrophy


I played basketball from 4th thru 8th grade either through the YMCA or my grade school. In the early years, since I was taller, I could get rebounds and barely had to jump. This was good because I really couldn’t jump that high. Nevertheless I felt like a star.

But then in sixth grade it got a little more competitive and I wasn’t playing very much. Occasionally I’d get to start against the dumpy teams in our division but the highlight reel would be about five seconds long. My best season I averaged 1 point per game. 12 games, 12 total points. There was one game that season when someone stepped on my foot while I was shooting but no foul was called or maybe it would have been 14 points. The fact that I even remember that foot incident should indicate exactly how little I played in games!

I look back and am somewhat amazed that I stuck with it. I hated running. I was always told I never shot free throws correctly (even though I usually hit them). I had to get up early on Saturdays. And the uniforms uniforms clung to you like Saran Wrap exposing the fact that I had bigger boobs than most of the girls in my class. My mom had to add fabric to my 8th grade uniform so I could even fit in it — and I wasn’t even THAT fat.  Even though it was many hours of doing something I really wasn’t great at, I still had fun. Likely it was more about social activity than anything else. Even though there was the side benefit of exercise, almost all the boys in my class of 25 played on the team so it was guaranteed play time at least three times a week.

I don’t remember if it was 7th or 8th grade when I won the “Team Player” or “Biggest Heart” award. Usually this is reserved for the least athletic kid who showed up the most often which probably described me best when it came to basketball.

In 8th grade it was difficult for me to get up off the floor without help so I got really nervous about playing and getting knocked down. So I thought it over and decided to ask the coaches if I could still practice, but never play, and just keep stats on the games. It worked out well. My friends loved to see their stats and of course the nerd in my loved running them through my Dad’s Apple II+ to print them out every week. It was a fun, and stress-free compromise.

But in the very last game of the season my coach said he wanted me to play. Since we were playing a sucky team it was likely we would win but it was a much closer game than it should of been. Eventually I did get put in for the very last minute. The guy who was guarding me said “Hey — you look like Elvis!” because my hair was probably still recovering from a trip to my mom’s hair dresser…ugh. But I did play for a minute that season even though I never got to touch the ball because Mark W. couldn’t hit a target with a pass if his life depended on it.

Overall I am so glad I played basketball during that time. I wonder if I had known at the time if I had muscular dystrophy whether or not I would have given a shot or not….but since I played tennis in high school I think maybe I would have. In any case I recommend doing whatever team sports you can for as long as you can.

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