We had a basketball game on Saturday. T has been very hot and cold about attending practices and games. The debates on that subject for R and I are extensive. T really struggles in a team environment IF he's not the one calling the shots and if his performance doesn't live up to his expectations. For his age, that's not necessarily an unusual behavior, but what concerns us is the way he deals with that frustration - which is usually by breaking down in tears and refusing to participate. If that doesn't get him my or R's undivided attention, then he'll start acting out more.
R and I have our hands full trying to manage 8 kids, so when T does this it's a struggle for me to balance coach with Mom. I want him to be able to express himself fully and openly, but at the same time using emotion to manipulate others is not acceptable. And often, it's hard to tell the difference between the two.
Since T's last big outburst, every time he shoots or throws the ball, it's underhanded and with little to no aim. So when he was playing Saturday, if someone passed him the ball, he'd just immediately toss it up in the air. I mean, really...just go ahead and shoot me the finger or something because he was determined to make his point. I was determined to not battle with him over it, especially since he started off not throwing underhanded and was making baskets and passing with great accuracy with no problem.
Unfortunately, his team mates dealt with it by not giving him the ball - and I don't blame them. Why should they if he isn't even trying?!? This, of course, gets him upset and he ends up in tears on the bench. He tells me he isn't going to play anymore, takes off his jersey and throws it down.
I get him to open up enough to tell me that he's upset because they won't give him the ball. I can understand that. So I explain to T that no matter what you are doing, different people have different strengths. It's unusual that one person can excel at everything, but it's completely possible to be really good at many different things. We watch the game for a bit and I'm speaking softly into T's ear about the game and his team mates. One boy is our star ball handler, one hardly ever misses a shot, one is good at rebounds, one is good at finding team mates to pass the ball to, etc. And I explain to T that his excellent skills are his speed, agility and height.
There was more to it than that, but he agreed to go back out there and play with a minimum of convincing. We play a basic man to man defense and the kids wear different colored wrist bands. When T got out there, he ran the poor kid he was matched with ragged. It was amazing to see him play the rest of the game. He played excellent defense, and even though he was still throwing underhanded, he was at least trying to hit the basket or pass directly to his team mates. And the running? Oh my gosh, it was amazing to see. Seriously, the poor kid that had to keep up with T probably went home and slept for two hours.
This was some serious progress. I hope.