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Being a pint-sized super star is not always super

Submitted by on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 No Comment

He looked like Michael Jordan’s mini-me – or Kobe Bryant’s, depending on your generation – but with a shade more hair. Possibly with a shade more precociousness, too, since Jordan did, after all, get cut from his high school basketball team.

He raced from one end of the court to another, and a ball in his control was as good as a goal. Even his teammates recognized it, passing often and willingly to him.

A parent from our team jokingly offered him candy to sit out a quarter, but it was a non-starter.  “Maybe you should try a Wii the next time,” I suggested. That likely wouldn’t work either, though. Some kids are just born to play.

It was the first time Boots had been on the receiving end of a thumpin’ – and in case he hadn’t clued in to the severity of said thumpin’, his brother was on hand to remind him. “You guys lost. Bad. 34-4,” Big Guy said in his factual-but-annoying way.

Mostly Boots has been teammates with the pint-size super stars, the kids with preternatural knacks for finding the ball where ever it is.

The first time, it worked spectacularly. Riding on the back of a kid so talented that his sole challenge all season was when the coach let Big Guy glom onto Boots’ practice, the team lost only one game. It was a game Prodigy 1 missed.

Still, the player was a gentleman as well as an extraordinary talent. When the tiniest girl on the team tapped him on the shoulder one game, smiled sweetly and asked Prodigy 1 to pretty please pass her the ball, he graciously did so immediately.

That was not the case with Prodigy 2, a boy Boots played with a few teams later. That kid wouldn’t have willingly passed the ball if it’d been covered in Plastique.

The totals at the end of the season were the same – Boots’ team lost only once, a game Prodigy 2 missed – but the end result was dramatically different. Boots stomped out after every game, grousing because he so seldom got to touch the ball.

Still, all is not happy for the parents of prodigies either.

In the years since we played with Prodigy 1 his mother has become a good friend, and I know now how she agonized over whether to move him up to play with older kids. She’d asked that he be put in a higher division the season he played with Boots, but she was turned down. The very next season he did move up – he’s  7 and playing with 10-year-olds and doing really, really well – but now she has the constant worry of watching him go up against significantly bigger players.

As much as it would be a blast in some ways to have such a supremely talented child, I’m really glad that I don’t have that burden. Granted, Big Guy is a very good soccer player, and a very, very good baseball player. But at this point I wouldn’t put him in the “prodigy” category. Thank heaven.

Big Guy, meanwhile, is learning this season about playing in the shadow of a prodigy. There’s a kid on his basketball team who plays like an NBA veteran sawed off at the knees. “I’m glad he’s on your team,” I told Big Guy last night. “Going up against him in practice is making you a much better player already.”

“I know, but who makes him a better player? Is it really fair to him?” Big Guy asked.

Good question, Big Guy.

Copyright 2012 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.




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