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Sweet Caroline!

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2020 by macmystery
Caroline

My niece Caroline is ready to step to the free-throw line.

Bah bah nah. That’s what come’s after Sweet Caroline, no?

If there’s any confusion, this  is most assuredly not about that popular Neil Diamond ditty. While I’ll admit it’s catchy, when you listen to the words, the song is actually quite creepy.

It is even more so when you consider it was allegedly written about a quite underage — barely even teenage — Caroline Kennedy. Think about that next time you’re singing along during the seventh-inning stretch at a shitty Boston Red Sox game.

Nope. This epic blog post is about Caroline, my niece, named after my mother, Carole.

Caroline is my sister Michele’s only child, born roughly a half a year after my own daughter, Ella. Unlike Ella, who is quite small, Caroline is big. Quite big.

I don’t mean this in a bad way. But she takes after her father in the fact that she’s tall. Quite tall. And getting taller.

At the ripe age of 11, she has already surpassed her mother in shoe size. I’m sure Michele welcomes this. It means she’ll no longer worry about Caroline stealing her shoes.

Problem is, it means she’ll be buying a lot more shoes. And the growing is far from over.

Caroline isn’t just big in stature, she has a big voice and it’s impossible not to notice she’s in the room. And issues with her ear she’s had since birth mean she’s sometimes unintentionally loud.

And my nickname for her? Lovingly, it’s Big Head.

But her size betrays her. When you’re with her, you feel like you’re in the room with another adult. It’s easy to forget, she’s only 11. Sometimes it’s tough to not be hard on her. Her size, unfairly, honestly changes your expectations.

But she’s a good kid. And something else she has that’s big — her heart.

Caroline has been playing church league basketball for a couple years now. I’ve managed to attend several games when in town.

Her coaches have tried to take advantage of her size — who wouldn’t. They want her to go to a spot, turn, and ask for the ball. When she gets it, they want her to turn and shoot. No dribble. Simply post up. There’s no one in her league who can contest her.

All this makes sense. The results? A few points — the games are low-scoring and her shooting has been suspect. And a lot of rebounds.

But not so many wins.

In fact, until last week … zero wins. Some close calls, but no bananas.

Basketball-wise, Caroline has some things to work on. I have told her a couple of times, the best thing she could do to improve is play as much basketball as possible.

There is a conflict, unfortunately. The things her coach asks her to do aren’t wrong. They are the things that give the team the best chance to win.

But she needs to improve her shooting, dribbling, passing, … and the mental aspects. And she won’t get better at those things if all she does is post up, catch the ball, turn and shoot. She can only get better at those things by doing them. She needs to play ball, a lot of it, and against kids her size, where she’s forced to do those things.

During this offseason, she made a decision to get more serious about basketball. A huge Clemson fan, she has made it her goal to play for the Tigers.

A realistic goal? Who knows. But she’s playing with a purpose.

She has actually gone and talked to the people who would be her coaches at the junior high and high school level about what she can best do to be ready to play for them.

Last week, I got the texts from my sister that I usually get during Caroline’s games. Except this time, they ended differently.

Trailing 5-4 late in the 4th quarter — with both buckets belonging to Caroline — a late score from the coach’s daughter gave her team a long-elusive 6-5 win.

Caroline finished with 4 points on 2-for-3 shooting with 11 rebounds and zero fouls.

“It feels good,” she texted me after her first win. “I played like I had a goal in life.”

I reminded her that her goal was good, but to be careful to enjoy the moment and have fun, even if the goal doesn’t work out.

“I know and I did but I still want to work on my goal.”

score

This week, Caroline and her team did it again. She scored 6 points — all on putbacks —  and her team won 8-4.

A winning streak. Who’d have thought it?

There’s really no point to all of this except that I love her. And some things seem to be breaking her way.

And there is no one happier for her than me. She, and her mama, deserve it.