480. Naomi

After reading what I wrote about Jimmy, the child who can’t do what the other children can, a friend suggested that I write about Naomi – the child who is quite skilled at basketball, and would like to play “real” basketball with other children who are also skilled. She could play with children who are only beginning to learn the game, but to her, doing so would be like pretending she doesn’t have the skills she has. Or she and her skilled friends could keep getting the ball, passing it back and forth, and getting baskets, while other children are made to feel more and more inadequate. Left to their own devices, children who have impressive athletic skill tend to form teams that are unfair. They like to all be on the same team and score lots of points. They keep their numbers low, pretending or mistakenly believing that that makes up for their superior skill.
It was much easier for me to write sympathetically about Jimmy than it is for me to try to see things from Naomi’s point of view. That’s because when it comes to sports, I identify more closely with Jimmy. Unlike Jimmy, I stayed away from sports I didn’t understand and/or couldn’t play, not wanting to flaunt my inferiority. But like him, I felt that sports (other than baseball, which I could play a little) were usually parties to which I wasn’t invited. Unlike Jimmy, I found people who weren’t into sports so much, either, and liked doing more of what I could do – music, drama, and just plain talking – and I found ways to have friends without sinking baskets or scoring touchdowns.
But Naomi is good at sinking baskets, and good at getting and controlling the ball so that she has plenty of opportunities to score. And she’s also good at knowing how and when to get the ball to someone on her team who is in a better position to score. I may be quite unable to play the way she plays, but I’ve watched enough basketball to know that Naomi is doing it right, and Jimmy really isn’t. Jimmy plays the way I would have played if I’d played.
What should Naomi do with her superior skill? Help other children develop skill? She does that a little, and children appreciate it. Or should she pretend she doesn’t play the game as well as she does? At this point, I don’t think she’d fool anyone, and besides, she likes being as athletic as she can be. She wants to play as well as she can, and since she’s so good, playing that well will leave many children behind. Especially Jimmy.
After school, Naomi gets together with children who play at her level. She tries not to talk about that too much at school, but I’m probably not the only one who’s occasionally heard her do so.
It’s fair, kind, and right to include everyone in having fun. It’s unfair, cruel, and wrong to tell some people they can’t join in the fun because they aren’t skilled enough. But what about Naomi?

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