"Where do you think we better start?" I said.
"Layups," Pete said. "If they can't make those they can't make anything."
So we got them all together in a circle and explained the principles of the layup, and right away the trouble started.
The girls started to look at each other and then they started to giggle and sort of push each other. I couldn't figure out what they were laughing about and Pete was so involved explaining he didn't notice it, and then I saw what the matter was and I realized we had more problems than we thought.
Basketball, just like anything else—motorcycle racing or chemistry or high fidelity—has its own vocabulary, and we were going to have to talk about the game but we were going to have to change the vocabulary. I was trying to figure out how I was going to explain to our rebounders that they had to get some part of their anatomy between the opposing player and the basket, and then I started thinking about chest passes and what you could make out of that if you wanted to. Then there was man-for-man, and give-and-go, and what about zone presses and it all got sort of depressing. But the girls weren't depressed. Peter was a spellbinder and they listened to every word he said and then he got them in two lines.
He threw the ball to me and I drove for a demonstration layup and then I passed to him and he put one up and then he told the girls to try it.
The first one came down toward the basket dribbling as if it were a medicine ball and when she got near the basket she stopped and put up a two-handed set shot.
The next three thought the first one was right and they all did the same thing and the fifth one got in too far and shot up through the bottom of the basket. Pete told them to stop and we demonstrated again. The next one really tried to do what we wanted, but she just kept on going and came out on the other side of the basket without shooting at all and she stood there holding the ball and looking silly. I was getting a hopeless feeling and I could see Pete didn't know what to do next and then I looked up toward the other end of the court where the doors from the locker room were. Four more girls had come out on the court and were standing there talking to each other. I walked over to one of the girls we were working with and asked, "Who are those girls that just came in?" and she said, "Oh, they're the seniors. They're always late."
I walked up the court to meet the seniors. I was going to let Pete do it, but he was involved with his layups and anyway there was something interesting about those girls. They had that loose-tough look of four girls standing on a street corner. When I got there they all smiled and said hello and we were introduced. The one who did the introducing was called Betsy and there were Blair and Chia and Nell and they didn't look a bit like the ones Pete was teaching layups to down at the other end of the court. Except for the one named Nell, they were bigger and there was a lot more to them. They even looked good in bloomers.
Betsy was blonde and Blair had hair as black as a crow and Chia's was brown, and all of it was long enough to climb into a castle with. Nell had a puce leotard on under her regulation gym suit and the four of them just stood there looking at me, figuring me out.