Basketball for toddlers

Basketball isn’t a sport that ever features prominently on my watch list. However, the tiny tyrant has always had an interest, stemming from the day she stumbled upon a bit of the March Madness on TV and fell mysteriously silent for whole minutes. Since then, we’ve smuggled our way into a 3-on-3 kids’ tournament at Spennymoor Leisure Centre and attempted to shoot some hoops at our local soft play. Alicia has a mean slam dunk, as long as Daddy lifts her up to the basket. So, inevitably, we had to check out a game.

alicia at basketball 2
Alicia at Durham Palatinates basketball.

Problems. Basketball isn’t big in this country. Sure, we have the Newcastle Eagles just up the road, but paying out for tickets to an event that we might have to leave after five minutes triggers my Scrooge-like tendencies, and not long after Christmas there’s not much cash to spare. Speaking of Christmas, Alicia got a camera and is eager to photograph anything and everything (and especially her feet) so a venue without over-zealous stewarding seemed like the way forward.

action 4
Action as Durham Palatinates (purple) take on Oaklands Wolves in the WBBL.

Which is where Durham University comes in. The sports complex is a surprising hit with a small child: lots of different sports going on, no admission fee, a reasonable likelihood of someone taking a couple of minutes to say hello, show off the kit and make a fuss of a toddler, and all on the doorstep. Best of all, Durham Palatinates are a pretty good team in the Women’s Basketball League. A week after they reached a cup final, we decided to drop in for their WBBL game.

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Action as Durham Palatinates (purple) take on Oaklands Wolves in the WBBL.

Usually, it’s time for a bit of Dad-splaining. You know the drill. Dad tries to offer perceptive and enlightening comments about tactics and gameplans, Alicia responds with the key questions like ‘why is it purple?’. But Dad knows nothing about basketball, so we forgo that ritual and keep it simple. The purple team is from Durham, the light blue team isn’t, and they’re both trying to throw the ball through those little hoops at each end.

And then, impressively, she sat and watched the first half fairly happily. Even a delay when the ref got injured didn’t provoke too much grumbling (and we discovered a very convenient toilet for the inevitable pit stop). In the second quarter we snuck down from the stand and took our cameras behind one of the baskets for some different photos. By half time, though, the urge to run around and explore was too strong, and not even a prolific performance from Durham’s Kara Elderkin could keep her attention. So, it was off for a trot around the rest of the centre to see what was happening: indoor cricket nets and outdoor field hockey, plus pressing our noses against the window of the indoor rowing tank. We didn’t get to see how the basketball finished, although we later learned that Durham’s comfortable lead kept growing as the game went on.

sports hall
The Durham University sports hall, home of Durham Palatinates.

Durham’s upcoming Trophy final in Glasgow on March 15 might be a bridge too far for this emerging interest in the game. But we did see a handy – and cost-effective – way of killing a Saturday afternoon and introducing kids to different sports. Definitely a good option for stressed Mums and Dads looking to encourage their little monsters to put some of that energy to constructive use.

Game details

Durham University Sports Centre

Jan. 11, 2020. Women’s Basketball League

Durham Palatinates 82 Oaklands Wolves 32

Att: about 50

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