Monday, January 18, 2016

Remembering and Recovering

Today Vera Valmore and I went to the local Y (which we’ve just joined). For the first time in I don’t know how long, I spent a half-hour shooting hoops.

Had to a chuckle at that sign pictured at left, one I noticed when heading into the gym. The top one, I mean. Can’t say avoiding dunking has ever been that much of a problem for me.

Basketball has always been my favorite sport to play. I grew up with a hoop in the driveway and spending practically every single day of my childhood and right into my late teens playing. I continued to play regularly through college and grad school, often playing pickup games up to three times a week.

Over the last decade-and-a-half things trailed off considerably for me as far as b-ball goes. It’s the unfortunate transition most of us find it hard to avoid making at some point after reaching adulthood -- less play, more work. I was still occasionally jumping in games and at least shooting around up until about five years ago, but to be honest I can’t even remember the last time I even took a shot before today.

I knew from previous experience that the first shot, and likely the first several, would not be pretty. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, though, and in fact within the first handful of shots I’d already swished a three-pointer. Even so, I was mindful of how the memory of a skill like shooting a basketball only comes back to a person in stages after a long period having not exercised it.

For me, the first part of the “recovery” concerns simply holding the ball. I don’t have to work hard to remember how I hold the ball when I shoot it, and it only takes a little more effort to remind myself how to lift the sucker up and push it toward the basket.

After that comes becoming familiar once again with gauging how much physical exertion is needed to shoot from various distances -- five feet, 10, 15, 20, and so on -- as well as sharpening the aim to make the ball go more or less straight and not to one side or the other. I found it easier to remind myself how to shoot the long ones than the middle-range ones. Even lay-ups were a little tricky, partly because one of the last things I was remembering how to do (or “recovering”) was how to move my feet and hold the rest of my body when shooting.

It reminded me a little of playing poker, which has also become something I do less frequently these days. As a result, I’m often going through a similar “recovery” period when taking those first few hands, starting with simply handling the chips and cards, then moving on to remembering strategy and trying to learn once again how to play effectively.

I didn’t get into a game tonight, which means I didn’t challenge myself to try to run up and down the court several times without interruption. I know from previous experience how that is almost an insurmountable hurdle for those who haven’t played for a long time, as it only takes a couple of times running the court for a lot of us to be left gasping for air.

That’s also a poker-related skill -- namely, stamina and the ability to focus and perform for lengthy periods -- that necessarily takes time to get back. The last session of any considerable length I have played was probably the media event at EPT Barcelona where I finished third, adding up to four or five hours of time at the tables (I think). I don’t doubt if I were to jump into a multi-day tournament with days scheduled to go ten hours-plus, I’d probably be in rough shape halfway through Day 1.

Fun to play again, though, even for just a little while. Will have to find a way to play more.

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