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The Adventures Of Maggie

A continuing saga

Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page W12

Previously: When his mother is coaching a basketball game, 5-year-old Jack Lonergan prefers the lobby to the gym: "One of [the cheerleaders] once kissed me," he explained. "That's why I'm never going near them again." To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.

Episode 10

Maggie lonergan watched with satisfaction as her basketball team was crushing its latest opponent. After a disappointing start, the Catholic University Cardinals were finally turning their season around. A victory tonight would not only be the team's fifth in a row, but would make Maggie the winningest coach in the 45-year history of the Catholic women's program.

(Photo by D.A. Peterson)

Then Maggie overhead one of her players talking. "Margaret looks so cute tonight," she exclaimed.

Maggie looked down the court -- past her 5-year-old son, Jack, who was stretched out on the bleachers, doodling in an activity book -- and felt a familiar twinge of dismay. Her 4-year-old daughter, Margaret, was prancing happily among Catholic's cheerleading squad in a red cheerleading jumper. Her pigtails bounced as she waved two pompoms.

Maggie certainly hadn't bought her daughter the cheerleading outfit; it was a hand-me-down from a cousin, she says. She'd much rather see Margaret wearing a Catholic basketball jersey. She wants both her children to be basketball jocks, just like their parents. Right now, though, that hope seems awfully remote.

Before having Jack and Margaret, Maggie promised herself that she wasn't going to be one of those overzealous sports parents. "I'm going to let them follow their own interests," she remembers thinking. But that didn't stop her from putting a basketball into Jack's hands when he was 2. To her delight, he quickly learned to dribble.

But soon his mother worried that he was using only his right hand. So Maggie tried coaxing him into being ambidextrous, she says. That backfired when Jack got frustrated and decided that basketball wasn't his thing. These days he rarely picks up a ball -- and still can't dribble left-handed.

He is a precocious swimmer, Maggie says, but that doesn't exactly make her burst with pride. She describes swimming as "that other winter sport," the one that conflicts with basketball.

Jack isn't much of a basketball spectator, either. During games, he usually buries his nose in a Game Boy or runs through the hallways outside the gym with a babysitter trailing behind. "That breaks my heart," Maggie says. "It's very difficult to see Jack have no interest in something I love so much -- basketball is my life."

Maggie's husband, Mike, an assistant men's basketball coach at the University of Maryland, shares her distress. "The stupid Game Boys and the television are what they like too much these days," he says. "Hopefully, this summer we can get the ball in their hands."

Maggie has been equally perplexed by Margaret's interest in cheerleading. But at least Margaret indulges her mother's

basketball obsession. "I'll be a cheerleader . . . then I'll be a basketball player, then I'll be a coach," Margaret recently told Maggie.

"Obviously she's eager to please me," Maggie says. "She knows the path I want her to take."

The clock wound down, and Catholic trounced Trinity College by 46 points. It was Maggie's 60th career win. Afterward, Margaret skipped across the court and gave her mother a red balloon. "You did it, Mom," the 4-year-old said. Maggie scanned the nearly empty bleachers for Jack. He was nowhere in sight.

-Tyler Currie

© 2005 The Washington Post Company