Speaking of basketball games, my son played basketball in 5th grade for a club team led by a pretty sharp coach, and the boys on the team were quite intense. They were very good players and got in the habit of winning.

My son, however, seemed to avoid the ball. He was a good shooter when we practiced at home, so I suspected he was afraid of making a mistake. He was great at blocking, but when his team had the ball, he would hide behind other players to avoid having anyone pass the ball to him.

I thought I was a pretty smart mom, and I also thought I could fix the problem so he could live up to his basketball potential. First I tried encouraging him to get the ball and shoot, but he never did. Finally I had the great idea to give him $2 every time he got the ball and tried to make a basket.

At the next game he was all over the ball. He rebounded and took a shot, and made it. I would have been ecstatic except that he was shooting at the wrong end of the court. When his teammates were running down to the other side, he stayed behind and shot – and made two points for the other team.

The ref blew the whistle, and our team got the ball. He got a hold of it and immediately turned and put a basket right through the net. Another two points for the other team.

Clearly he did not understand the mechanics of the game. His coach called a time out, and the team huddled together. When they got back on the floor, every  time someone on his team got the ball, they immediately passed it to him. He looked like a deer in the headlights. He’d shoot and miss, they’d rebound and pass it right back to him and he’d have to shoot again. Finally he made a basket.

I could tell he was miserable. The other team scored, and when we got the ball, he couldn’t hide – his teammates hunted him down like stalkers and passed the ball to him. He’d shoot it, miss, and they’d rebound and fire it right back to him. I felt so sorry for him because the ball refused to go in the basket the first few tries. Finally he scored again. After that, the team went back to normal. It was obvious the coach had told them to let my son shoot until he got the points back he’d given to the other team. Thank goodness they won the game or no telling what they would have said to him.

Surprisingly, my son wasn’t terribly embarrassed about the whole thing when we got in the car to go home. “I just didn’t like everybody passing to me, mom. It wasn’t any fun. Oh, and you owe me $20,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“I shot ten times, so you owe me $20.”

From then on, I decided I’d stay out of his athletic endeavors.