I grew up with a basketball hoop at the end our street. I spent hours out there with my brothers shooting baskets and playing "HORSE." But when it came time to compete, I didn't make the grade. My high school team had won the state championship, and my skills were nowhere near that level. However, I learned that sitting in the bleachers with my friends, watching those girls work together as a team -- passing, setting screens, defending and shooting -- was an experience in itself. The fluid motion, the intuitive communication, the arc of the ball as it left a shooter's fingertips -- these were a thing of beauty.
The emotional connection of being a fan.
In college, I earned spending money by taking stats for the girls' team. Having to carefully count not just baskets made, but misses, assists, turnovers, steals, fouls and free throws, gave me a greater appreciation of the game. I loved the high fives between players when they helped each other. The emotional connection on the court often translated to an emotional connection with the crowd. A steal could bring fans to their feet and change the momentum of a game. I learned that basketball was a living, breathing thing.
Developing an eye for the game.
After my husband and I moved back to the Charlotte area, we became season ticket holders for the Davidson Men's Basketball team. Watching a skilled coach like Bob McKillop and listening to my husband's analysis of every game further developed my eye. Because the players are fine young men, it was fun to watch their personalities emerge and the chemistry among them develop on the court.
Each year the team looked different, and Coach McKillop focused on the talents of each player. One year, the team had four small guards, and despite playing against much taller players, the Wildcats used their speed, shooting ability and knowledge of the game to create a winning record.
The excitement of a great play.
I had the amazing experience of watching young Steph Curry play for Davidson. The fact that his shoes sported the verse: "I can do all things" from Philippians 4:13, and that he pointed to heaven after each made shot endeared him to fans. Not to mention the 3-point daggers he sank in game after game to put his team in the lead. Everyone would cheer, rising to their feet in awe!
Most teams don't have a Steph Curry. Yet, the excitement of basketball is still there. It's in the little moments. The crisp pass from one teammate to another. The shot that launches into the basket and barely shivers the net. The fans sitting on the edge of their seat, waiting to explode in exhilaration or exhale in defeat. The hand that reaches out to help a fallen player. The high fives after a great play. The cheers from the team when a bench warmer comes into the game.
Whether it’s a church league, a high school game or a college tournament, these moments bring joy to basketball fans.
Ann is married to Joel Campanella, who coaches basketball at Covenant Classical School.