The Assist

(Note: this story was first written in early March of 2012. I just noticed it in my draft post list and decided to go ahead and publish it, since it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.)

Assist, n. 1. An act of giving aid; help. 2. Sports a. A fielding and throwing of a baseball in such a way that enables a teammate to put out a runner. b. A pass, as in basketball or ice hockey, that enables the receiver to score a goal. c. Official credit that is given for such a pass.

My son, Jake, is a lacrosse player. Since his first experience with the sport, when he announced to me (at age 9) that lacrosse “is my destiny,” to today as the only freshman on his high school varsity team, the boy has lived and breathed lacrosse.

His high school team is “rebuilding,” which is a nice way of saying they aren’t very good but have tremendous potential. A new coach with discipline and a plan has helped tremendously, but we know that part of the reason Jake is playing varsity is because he is one of few players with several years of community league experience. At a different high school with a more established team, Jake would be playing JV and playing it well. Here, he’s proving to those upperclassmen that he can hold his own on a varsity squad. The pressure is rather intense, as is Jake. He wants to do well, he wants to learn, and he wants to be a team player. Amazingly, not traits that all lacrosse players share. But I digress.

The team had their first home game last night, playing a new team with even less experience and skill. We scored so many goals in the first couple of quarters that Coach was able to put in a variety of players to give them some experience. One of those kids, we’ll call him Jordan, is a special needs kid. Not quite sure what his issues are, but he seems to process life a little differently than the rest of us. He’s a senior and the written policy is that seniors can’t play JV. The unwritten policy is not to cut seniors from a team, so Jordan is playing varsity. He has no real hope of ever seeing much game time, so this big blowout appears to be his opportunity.

Coach puts Jordan in the game at attack, an offensive position that circles the goal and hopes to catch a pass they can immediately shoot and score. The ball makes it way to Jake, who has an open shot at the goal. Remember, this is a kid who loves to score, who NEEDS to score to prove to his older teammates he’s got the chops. So, what does he do? He sees Jordan hovering near the goal with no defenders on him, since he is not perceived as any kind of threat. In a split second, Jake passes the ball to Jordan, who shoots, and to everyone’s  amazement, scores.

Pandemonium ensues!! Jordan is euphoric, jumping up and down, running to embrace his teammates on the sidelines, who hoist him to their shoulders while the crowd goes wild. If this had been on YouTube, it would have been a instant classic. I turn to the mom beside me, just as she says, “Did Jake pass that ball to Jordan?” “Yes, yes,” I nod, “I believe he did.”

I can’t quite describe the feeling that came over me as I realized Jake made that moment happen. If I were the Grinch, I would say my heart grew three sizes that day, but my heart is already pretty normal-sized, so I’d use that old cliche that my heart “swelled with pride” instead.  Jake went on to score at least once in that game, but when you ask him what the highlight of the game was, he says, “Jordan’s goal.” I smile and agree, but for me, the highlight was, and always will be, the assist.

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