Rec basketball: few baskets but lots of laughs

Why I still play rec basketball


Mia Friedman

The Evil Jumping Hippos pose after our final game of the season. We hold up a W or a number one to joke about our lack of seriousness and talent during the season.

By Mia Friedman

My teammate, Olivia, lobs the basketball down the court to where I’m in position to take an easy shot in the paint. My jersey hangs past my knees and my five-year-old, mud-covered Nike sneakers slide across the gym floor as I try to stop my movement with no avail. I catch the ball and spin around, whipping the ball off the backboard — right into the hands of a girl on the other team. 

It’s pretty awful. But my whole team cheers wildly from the bench anyway. My teammates and I are veterans of the Montgomery County Recreational Basketball league, touting our 11 years of experience in the game. We don’t even practice anymore. We’re just that good. 

Just kidding. Our team name, the Evil Jumping Hippos, is just as dysfunctional as we are. We’re lucky to get our score into the double digits these days, and we haven’t won a game in years. But we still come back each Sunday without a single second of practice under our belts, ready to lose and ready to have fun. 

I started playing basketball in kindergarten when my friend Anna’s dad approached other parents about starting a rec team. At our first practice, we all argued almost the entire time about what our team name should be, and our coach finally made us compromise, so we named the team the Evil Jumping Jellybeans.

For years, the Evil Jumping Jellybeans competed, boasting more seasons with winning records than losing ones. The games always got pretty intense, with one of my teammates eventually having to quit after experiencing two concussions from the competition. Somehow, we all remember the referees being biased in every single game, clearly wanting the other team to win. However, despite the terrible reffing, every year we all got excited when basketball season rolled around.

I’ve played Whitman Field Hockey and ran track for three years, but I’ve had some of my best sports moments while playing with the Evil Jumping Jelly Beans. During a game in third grade, we went into double overtime. Whenever I see my old coach (Anna’s dad), he never fails to reference my game-winning shot in that 2012 game that led the Evil Jumping Jellybeans to a 4–2 win in sudden death. 

And for the parents, there seemed to be nothing more entertaining than watching their eight-year-old girls run around in colorful t-shirts that fell down to their knees, secured with a hair tie on their hip, and a side-ponytail hairstyle to match. Over the years, my collection of rec jerseys spanned across the rainbow, from red to yellow to blue to green to pink. To this day, I still wear the size-large cotton shirts to sleep.

In seventh grade, though, we couldn’t manage to get enough support to reassemble the Evil Jumping Jellybeans for another year. Some players moved, some went on to play for club teams and some were too busy with their other sports and schoolwork to play for another year. Spanish 1A with Ms. Beatty was just too stressful, they said. My cousin, also my age at Pyle, was having the same issue with her rec team from elementary school. My uncle, her coach, couldn’t field enough players for their team, the Purple Hippos to stay alive. In order to keep our rec basketball careers alive, we decided to merge our teams — and that’s how the Evil Jumping Hippos were born. 

Now, during our fifth season together, the Evil Jumping Hippos are lucky to make more than two baskets per quarter. Every Sunday it seems like we drive to Parkland Middle School more for a good laugh than for a good basketball game. To us, there’s nothing funnier than watching our friends lose time and time again to girls our age from other high schools. The other team runs warm-up drills before the game; we stand, chatting, in a stretching circle because nobody even brings basketballs to the games. We know how bad we are, but we’re not embarrassed about it. Our intensity during the games is unmatched. We even considered getting matching Soffe shorts for the games so we look more professional. 

Some may wonder why high school students would waste their not-so-lazy Sundays playing rec basketball. But to us, the Evil Jumping Hippos provides an outlet where the difference between success and failure doesn’t matter at all. Whether I walk onto the court and somehow make a 3-pointer, or shoot yet another airball, my team will support, laugh and cheer for me anyway. The goal of the game is purely to have fun and make fun of ourselves. It’s refreshing. Some former teammates have even come out of retirement for a single game, just to experience the goofiness of playing in a game again.

While some rec teams are better than others, it seems like we all have the common goal of purely having fun and spending time with our friends. Sacrificing my time for studying or other extracurriculars to destress and let loose on the basketball court has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in high school — and it’s definitely been a funny one for my coach, teammates and parents alike.