What I learned playing basketball as an adult

I’ve played basketball my entire life, or at least, since I was about the size of a basketball. I’ve never been great at it. My parents both played and I remember, as a kid, sitting on the sidelines as my dad’s team of 50-year-olds elbowed it out in the paint. I remember my mom proudly showing me a picture of her grade-school team The Twist. “I played point guard, Bridge.” I was almost starting to think she was cool. . .’til the next time she tried to walk beside me in public. C’mon, Mom!

Growing up in Philadelphia, it seemed like everyone played basketball. Even if you were not great at the sport (I wasn’t), you played. I don’t even remember it being that much fun. It just seemed like most people had basketball hoops in their cracked driveways, along with a flood light allowing for after-dark scrimmages. My cousins and I would play until my aunt called all of them (Sean, Tim, Margaret, and Mollie) in for bedtime. Everyone in Philadelphia also lived next door to their Irish cousins, right? No? Just me?

And now that I’ve picked up and moved to Los Angeles, where preferred interests include hikes, succulents, and mercury in retrograde, I’m surprised to say. . . I’m playing basketball on the reg again! I play alongside 20 of my hipster friends on the LA municipal women’s basketball team. The stands of our games are packed with screenwriters, comedians, our parents, and whomever I am dating that week.

When I was asked to join a team a few months ago, I said ‘yes’ because the pit of my stomach said ‘no.’ Recalling my childhood experience in ballin‘, I can remember three things clearly: an ever-present sense of terror, making eyes at cute people in the stands, and excitement over the two liters of orange Gatorade and Nerds I would pick up from the store on the drive home. I remember my coach yelling across a packed stadium, “Leland, you’re CLUEless,” after my sweet friend Leland turned over the ball. (I’ve lost touch with Leland, but I hope she has forgotten this event.) Overall, I remember feeling consistently discouraged.

I’m an adult, and I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, but I’m choosing to play. It’s a whole new ball game. It’s a game changer. It’s a litany of puns that make me wish I had a greater handle on the King’s English. I’m on a team called “The Kimmy Dribblers” and yes, we are Andrea Barber approved. We’ve lost more games than we have won, lots of basketballs have hit me in the head, I’ve missed eleventy billion shots, and it’s no longer cool to drink Gatorade. BUT, playing basketball is the MOST fun thing in my life. I’m having the most fun doing something I’m not good at? Indeed, and here’s what I’ve learned while ballin‘ as a grownup.

1. Everything is more fun when you choose to participate

It’s like self-serve froyo. There is a huge amount of joy that comes from having my own choice in the matter. No more parents telling me I have to play basketball unless I want to get fat.

2. You don’t need much

In the ’90s, I begged my parents for whatever the trend was that season: a tie-dyed mouth guard, a Nike sweat band for my bicep, and hundred-dollar Scottie Pippen Air pluses. Now I realize you just need a hoop, a ball (about $15), and a dream.

And though I think it’s SUPER cool to wear huge basketball shorts that flop about my upper calves, you can wear anything to basketball practice. Yoga pants, booty shorts, or flannels knotted at your waste. One time I met up with my friend Elaine and we were both wearing summer dresses, cute Keds, and a full red lip.

3. It’s still feels unfair that women can’t play skins in shirts vs. skins

I’d love to take my shirt off and play. It would really help me know who is on my team during scrimmages. Because seriously, why do we sexualize nipples?

4. Being on this team really makes me feel connected

My teammates have helped me move, showed up to my shows, sent me recipes, and told me I was awesome at basketball, even though I’m just ok at it. 

5. You can do something even if you’ve never tried

Some of the better players on my team didn’t spend their youths playing Dirty Dunk with their laundry. And they have just as much fun playing as I do.

6. Guys are kind of weird about it

Hey, I get it, dude. You “play on a soccer team” and “don’t make a big deal about it.” We women are very proud that we are on a team, many of us for the first time. This is new to us. Please respect that.

7. The B-ball look is SO IN right now

I’ve always thought street basketball “looked cool.” So does society. Those loose tank tops that are so in right now? They’re essentially cotton basketball jerseys.

8. Just about everyone cares about basketball

You know how no one really wants to come to your improv show? EVERYONE wants to come to your basketball game. People on the street stop me and ask about it when I’m in my team jersey. It’s kind of like having a cute puppy.

Follow our team @thekimmydribblers on Instagram and Bridgid @bridgidryan and @bridgidry on Twitter.

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