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Korby's Connections: It's kids simply playing

On a bright, sunshiny spring afternoon, my wife and I were assigned to pick up our grandkids after school from Churchill Elementary in Cloquet. The school is within walking distance of home. I usually wait for my grandson, who is in first grade, outside of the door where he’s released. My wife goes to a second building to meet my granddaughter, who is 4 and in preschool.

Max came running out of the school doors, saw me and gave me a big hug, then asked if he could go to the playground. With permission, he bolted across to the playground but then saw kids playing basketball on the outdoor courts at Churchill. He waved at me to come and accompany him, so I followed. When we got there, there were two distinct groups of kids. Later, I found out there were first-graders and third-graders. They were going to have a full court game.

The first-graders quickly huddled like a football team, wrapping their arms around each other’s shoulders in a small circle. They talked together for quite some time. When I asked Max about it later, he said they were deciding who was going to “be” Ant, Kat, Rudy and Naz Reid. All are familiar names to Minnesota Timberwolves fans. Wonder if the Wolves players know this goes on around playgrounds across Minnesota?

When play began, with the third-graders decidedly having the height advantage, a bigger boy came dribbling down the cement court, dribbling it too high, and a first-grader came from his blind side and swiped the ball. All action was ordered to stop. No “pressing” allowed until midcourt. A game-time rule.

The third-grader resumed his high dribble and put up his left hand high above his head with a clenched fist. Only the third-graders must have known what play he had devised. Most rules were ignored, such as kids running with the basketball, but no one cared. They all seemed to be having fun. It may have been from the rigors of being inside the school building and now feeling the sun on their faces.

For the most part, the third-graders dominated. But a tiny first-grader made a longer shot, quickly reversed court, and held up the OK symbol with his little hand, signifying that it was definitely a three-pointer. Same as Naz Reid would do.

Few fouls were called. Kids came and went on different teams with random substitutes including some taller skilled girls. A girl was fouled while shooting. She was rightfully awarded two free throws. She made them both, and quickly put three fingers on her left forearm and said, ”ice in the veins, baby.” A basketball playoff staple.

With parents arriving to pick up their kids, the basketball game soon disintegrated. It was refreshing to see how kids quickly devised their own game plan, teams, rules, and format with no adults, no parents involved. They cared for each other. If someone fell while running, they stopped the game to make sure there were no cuts or broken bones. They played footloose and free. It was an exciting pickup game.

Steve Korby welcomes ideas for human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans. Contact him at news@PineKnot News.com.