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Chapter 4

. We’re talking about practice

The gym was buzzing with the sound of basketball practice.  Varsity basketball practice, however, was not the only activity going on, as the JV basketball team was practicing at court opposite the varsity. The varsity and JV cheerleaders were also practicing, repeating their lifts, tosses and pyramids, from the ready position, along the narrow confines of the sidelines. Each group was oblivious to the other. Usually.

The varsity was casually shooting around the basket when coach Miller walked in. “All right, ladies, line up, let’s go” he yelled, and the players quickly assembled at the sound of the coach’s command. “When I call your name say ‘here’ or ‘present’.







“Do I look like I’m working on the docks of Philly, Bear?” coach Miller snapped back.

“Here…sir…” Woody corrected himself.

Coach Miller stared at Woody for another second, then continued.






The shocked players looked at each other. “Ferco?” Gilmore said.

“Yes, Ferco. Where the hell is he?”

“I saw him getting dressed in the locker room” Eyre said, and the other players looked at him. “I didn’t know he was dressing to join us” he quickly added, thinking he had to explain his comment.

Brian suddenly appeared from the locker room. He heard the coach yelling his name and, seeing the rest of the team already gathered around the coach, realized he was late and rushed to join the group.

“Here coach” he said, stumbling toward them.

“What is he doing here?” Woody Bear complained.

“Practice starts at 3:00 around here Ferco…take a lap” Coach Miller yelled, so loud it startled Brian.

“Take a lap of what coach?”

The team laughed.

“Knock it off” the coach scowled at the players. “Eyre, show Mr. Ferco how we run laps around here.”

“Why me coach?”

“You’re right Ferco here how we run laps” the coach bellowed.

The team groaned but immediately peeled off and headed to the outside of the court to run laps, several of them bumping and brushing past Brian. Brian spun and fell in line as well. The team zig zagged around the cheerleaders practicing on the sideline and past the JV.

“Darn, already?” said one of the JV players as the varsity jogged past.

“Let’s go…pick it up we’re running laps not chillin’ on the couch at your bro’s house” coach Miller yelled, clapping his hands together loudly and rapidly.

 Brian settled into the middle of the pack, not at the front but not at the rear.

“Remember professor Ferco, you want to be part of this team, you gotta keep up.  You fall behind, you can’t keep up…you’re gone.”

Woody elbowed Steve Atwood to get his attention. “Hear that? Pass the word. On the next lap let’s smoke this geek.” Steve nodded and leaned over to Billy Eyre to pass the message along to everyone. Everyone except Brian. On que, at the start of the next lap, the varsity took off in a sprint, hoping to show coach Miller that Brian wasn’t physically fit enough to join the team, but Brian followed right behind them, easily catching up and settling back into the middle of the pack. As the players sprinted past coach Miller blew his whistle with a long, shrill blast. “All right, all right ladies enough.” The players broke off their run, panting heavily from the last burst around the gym. Everyone, that is, except Brian, who was breathing normally.

“That, ladies, was pathetic. Are you trying to tell me Ferco is in better shape than you? Looks like some of you are spending too much time in the weight room and not enough time on the track. Muscles are not the only important thing in this game, ladies” and Brian could not help but see the irony in the coach’s remarks. “You need to be 100% aerobic, and I know just how to get you there. Line up for ladders.”

Again, the players groaned. “Move” yelled the coach showing no sympathy. The players quickly formed up at the end of the court. Brian followed behind them. Unsure of what to do he caught the coach’s attention. “Uh, coach Miller, I am not sure what to do could you…”

“Just watch the first group professor. You’ll figure it out quick enough.”

With that Brian lined up with the second group. The coach blew his whistle and the first group took off, running up to the first painted line on the gym floor, bending down to touch it, then sprinting back to where they started. But to Brian’s surprise, they spun and sprinted back up the court, bending over to touch the painted line beyond the first one, then heading back to the starting point before repeating the drill with the half court line. As the first group was returning, Skylar McCabe turned to Brian. “You ever run this drill before professor?”


“Don’t worry, it’s okay if you puke the first time you do it.”

As the first runners flew past the end line of the court, the coach blew his whistle and Brian’s group took off, except for Brian, who stood there until the coach saw him and yelled “move Ferco,” and Brian, too, took off running. The other guys in his group were already on the way back from touching the first line before Brian started, and they passed him going in the opposite direction. Brian knew he had to catch up. Speeding up just enough to not cause suspicion, Brian timed his run so that he was with the group as they started the final leg, bending over to touch the half court center line at the same time as the rest of the guys, then turning and sprinting back for the final time, being careful not to finish either first or last.

Again, the varsity was breathing heavy from the workout, except for Brian, who’s new legs seemed immune to fatigue. Brian noticed several of his teammates looking at him. Dino Adams and Ed Gilmore wandered over to where Brian was standing. “Nice comeback Ferco” Ed Gilmore said, and Dino nodded in agreement. “What are you a marathon runner or something?”

“No, not at all” Brian replied.

Ed and Dino looked at each other but before they could say anything else, coach Miller was yelling again.

“Harden, Gilmore, Eyre, Bear and Simmons on offense. McCabe, Adams, Timmons, Reardon and Ferco on Defense. JV, listen up” coach Miller yelled down to the opposite end of the court where the younger squad was practicing. “Clear the court, JV, now” and at the coach’s instructions, the JV coach, who was also the assistant varsity coach, Mr. Hunt, nodded his head to coach Miller. Mr. Hunt blew his whistle. “Come on JV, clear the court” and the players quickly moved off the floor.

“Okay varsity” coach Miller yelled. “Full court.” Kirk Harden picked a ball out of the ball rack and began dribbling to the opposite end of the court. Ed Gilmore, Billy Eyre, Woody Bear and Shane Simmons followed him.

Skylar McCabe, Dino Adams, Tray Timmons, and Nick Reardon formed up at the other end and Brian joined them. Skylar took charge. “I’ll take Harden” he said. “Dino you take Billy, Nick you take Woody, and Tray you take Shane” he continued. “Who do I take” Brian asked. “Whoever’s left” Skylar replied as the group broke huddle and moved to the middle of the court to wait for Kirk’s side to bring the ball down. Brian ran down the matchups Skylar had just laid out and concluded he would be covering Ed Gilmore. Ed was at least 3 inches taller than Brian and easily outweighed him by 25 pounds. The coach blew his whistle to signal the start, and the players exploded into motion. Kirk’s team came swiftly down the court as Brian’s side moved into defensive positions, but Kirk Harden dribbled right past Skylar McCabe, moving toward the basket. Brian, confused and unsure of what to do, immediately lost sight of Ed Gilmore, who blew right by him, taking a pass from Kirk and moving in for an easy layup and 2 points. Several players high fived Ed, and Nick Reardon stepped across the end line to pass the ball in for their chance on offense.

“Isn’t like the chemistry lab, hey professor” coach Miller yelled.

Brain tried to follow what his teammates were doing on the court. “Come on professor” Tray Timmons said to Brian, grabbing his arm as he moved past, dragging Brian along with him. “Listen Ferco, you have to stay in front of the player you’re guarding.”

“Stay in front of?” Brian asked as Tray placed him into position.

“Stand here” Tray told Brian. “And yes, you should always have the man you’re covering in front of you with the basket you’re defending behind you. But we’re on offense right now” he continued as they watched Skylar bring the ball up court. Kirk quickly moved in to cover him and Skylar passed off to Dino, who hurried a shot that missed. Billy Eyre grabbed the rebound and snapped off a quick pass to Kirk, who again sprinted down the court looking to move in for an easy layup, but before he could the coach yelled “run the offense, Harden” and Kirk veered away, dribbling around the perimeter to allow the rest of his teammates to catch up. Kirk passed the ball to Woody, who dribbled twice before passing off to Ed Gilmore, who turned and shot 12 feet from the basket. Once again, Brian had lost track of Ed, but when Ed took his shot, Brian found himself following the ball with his eyes and drifting towards the basket. The ball clanked off the front of the rim, heading right for Brian as it came down. Brian was standing next to Shane Simmons, who at 6’ 5” towered over him. Seeing the mismatch, Shane moved to block Brian off the ball. Brian, using his shorter size to slip around Shane, leaped to grab the rebound, trying to control how far his legs would elevate him off the gym floor. To everyone’s shock, he easily out jumped Shane, who was desperately attempting to move back into position after Brian had slipped by him. Brian grabbed the ball with both hands and held on tight as he touched down, unsure of what to do with it. Brian’s teammates, seeing he had the ball, spun to head down the court. As Skylar McCabe sprinted past, he held out his hands. “Ferco, ball” and Brian quickly tossed it to him. Several of the players stood momentarily looking at Brian, but at the sound of the action moving down the court, broke away. Skylar took Brian’s pass and moved straight in for an easy layup, and as the ball passed through the net the coach blew his whistle.

“Hold it, ladies” he yelled. “Ferco, get over here.” Brian stood still for moment. “Now, professor.”

Brian quickly jogged over to where the coach was standing. Coach Miller stared at him briefly, looking him up and down.

“Turn around.”


“Just turn around Ferco and face away from me.” The rest of the players milled around Brian and the coach. “Lift your left leg Ferco.”

“Coach?” Brian replied, puzzled.

“Just lift you left leg and show me the bottom of your shoe.”

“Brian lifted his left leg and held his foot so the coach could see the bottom of his shoe. The players all craned for a look as well.

“Now lift your right leg and show me the bottom of that shoe.”

Brian did the same with his right leg.

“Okay Ferco, turn back around.”

Brian turned back to face the coach.

“Now, take off your shoes and show me inside them.”

“Coach Miller, I don’t understand.”

“I doubt that professor. Shoes…now Ferco.”

Brian took his sneakers off and held them out to the coach.

“Get those re-treads out of my face, Ferco” the coach said, pulling his head back. “Hold them up so I can see inside them.”

Brian held the sneakers flat in front of him, pulling the tongues back to expose inside, and the coach and the players again moved to peer. The JV, coach Hunt, and even the cheerleaders, some partly on the court, strained to look as well.


The coach blew his whistle. “Alright ladies, that’s it for today.” The relieved players all moved to head for the locker room, but the coach quickly yelled “two laps first” and once again the team groaned before peeling off to run the laps, Brian, again, settling into the middle of the group. “And Ferco” the coach yelled over his shoulder as he walked off the court. “Don’t come to practice tomorrow with those dad sneakers on your feet.”

The varsity completed the laps and the players grabbed towels and water bottles and headed for the locker room.

Ed and Skylar sided up to Brian as he walked toward the locker room doors.

“Looks like you survived your first day” Ed said.

“What about my sneakers?” Brian asked hoping they would steer him in the right direction.

“Uh, yeah, those are not sneakers, Ferco, they’re shoe boxes” Ed said, and Skylar laughed.

“What am I supposed to wear?’

“Anything but those. You’ll figure it out professor.”

Brian tried to act normal as he put on his street clothes in the locker room, but he could see several players talking and looking at him, obviously commenting on what they had witnessed during practice. Brian was almost dressed when Woody came out of the shower. He strolled right up to Brian wearing only a towel. Brian couldn’t help but notice Woody’s muscles. “You know professor, grabbing one lucky rebound doesn’t mean a thing. Today was an easy practice. When things start to get rough out there, you’ll quit, I guarantee it. But don’t worry. Cut down day is Friday, so by Monday you’ll be safe and sound back in you la-BORE-atory.”

Brian didn’t say a word, so Woody, dripping from his shower, grunted and spun back to his locker. Brian quickly finished dressing. As he pulled on his dirty, grass stained sneakers, he remembered the coach’s words.

“Looks like I’ll need to go shopping for sneakers tonight.”

Submitted: April 24, 2019

© Copyright 2020 Gary192837465. All rights reserved.


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