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April 8, 2016

Playing for Milkshakes

Playing for Milkshakes

THROWBACK THURSDAY – I miss games of HORSE for a milkshake. We didn’t do it every Wednesday night because we were not allowed to go to McDonald’s at all, but every once in awhile, dad would bet a milkshake on a game at the end of our St. Jude’s CYO practice. I don’t remember if we were able to cash in on every milkshake or if it was more of an IOU milkshake the next time we all made a McDonald’s or Stewart’s run against my mother’s wishes. Mom wasn’t sold on the milk, sugar and fries, and I honestly think we didn’t go because back in the day, for us at least, – relative to our low production cost for dinner at home – it was too expensive for us to go as a family.


We would cash in our winning milkshake coupon there or we’d call it even after huddling around a pie of pizza from Kaye’s. The best memories of practice and games in middle school were going out for pizza after, or the sleepovers where we stayed up all night prank-calling random people back when we had landline phones and no answering machines.


Our kids in the city don’t have much time after practice to stop for a random milkshake or pizza run. They’re overbooked or loaded down with homework, or maybe just not as connected as we were in a small community where dad often ran the station wagon through the main part of town and picked up most of the players along the way.


I worked a boost skills workout tonight with two of our coaches. I brought Luke, 2.5 years old and Reese, six months. I let Luke loose (sort of) and tied Reese to my chest so I could still demonstrate with her facing the kids. Luke ran around the gym and put on every pinney. He counted the numbers on the walls. He asked to go to the bathroom three times. I insisted he do all the running drills with the kids between sets, and he did it. He sprinted every block to and from practice. I honestly felt he earned a milkshake for good behavior the same way his mom and Uncle Ryan were rewarded for good behavior if they sat still while dad coached Kevin and me, and our teammates, at practice 30+ years ago.


I left my wallet home so I couldn’t make the offer to Luke, and it would have been a huge mistake to even talk about it without being able to back it up immediately. I do think that next week, I’ll bring some healthy prize – an organic lollipop or fruit roll-up or a pack of gum from the health food store or maybe some prize for the kids to play for. If I have a milkshake these days, it affects my blood sugar level so much that I honestly feel drunk. But a sticker? A wristband? A free slice from Two Boots or maybe a gift card to 16 Handles? No, a juice or smoothie from the health food shop, which will run me at least seven bucks.


I just find it crazy that I can’t remember more than one drill from grade school – it was my dad teaching us how to learn to shoot layups with one hand, not two, and I still do the “grab the back of your shorts with your non-shooting hand” trick in my workouts. It works.


And so does keeping it fun, simple, and loose.


As a coach, with all the pressure I put on myself, it’s a mistake to get so caught up in the training that we forget what brought them to the gym. As intense as I was as a kid, if this is one of my fondest memories of youth hoops, it’s safe to say that kids still want to be with their friends, and playing for milkshakes.