Thursday, August 8, 2013

Basketball Epiphanies

A life changing moment came as a 20-year-old when I attended a Little People of America National Conference.  I hadn't been to a national since I was nine years old.  Eleven years separated the two national conferences. In middle school, high school, and college, I had experienced the frustration of social rejection from women in whom I had been interested, and to some extent I always struggled to fit in and make friends with my male peers.  I believed that the National Little People of America Conference would be a different world.  I thought I'd be a different person.  I thought both women and men would gravitate toward me. But as a 20 year old, on my own at a National Conference in Dallas Texas, it took me one day to figure out that I was the same person around little people as I was around average stature people.  I was defined in both places not by my height but by my personality.  My shy, timid personality didn't change around other dwarfs, and it served me no better within the LPA social circuit than it had in high school and college. 

Though I was crushed to realize that dating within LPA would be just as much of a struggle as it had been during my teenage years, I was relieved to discover that dwarfism wasn't the end all and be all of who I am.  Other personal characteristics had a much stronger impact of defining who I was as a person. 

The realization wasn't nearly as significant, but an experience I had a few days ago reminded me of my epiphany as a 20-year-old.  Since Sunday, I've been in East Lansing, Michigan for the World Dwarf Games, an international competition that happens every four years.  Around 400 athletes from more than 15 countries are participating in the games.  I signed up for four sports -- soccer, basketball, ping pong and boccia.  Two days ago, I met my basketball team for the first time. The coaches, not knowing any of our abilities, immediately threw us into a three on three scrimmage.  After watching us for a few minutes, they stopped the scrimmage and assigned us positions.  I was assigned to play guard.  In Chicago, I've played a pick up basketball game with the same group of average stature people for more than 10 years.  We play every Saturday.  Because every other player has at least a foot on me, I always play guard.  Two days ago, practicing basketball with other little people, it was thrilling to realize that what is true for me in basketball among average stature players, is also true among players with dwarfism. 

USA Team 3 with a few friends, including Tom Izzo.
Unfortunately, my basketball skills, similar to my social skills as a young man, have never been very good.  My team lost both games it played yesterday.  But we had a lot of fun.

For more on the World Dwarf Games, check out this website and this BBC Blog Post from Simon Minty.

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