When new SOWI athlete Ethan Sallinen started basketball this year with the Door County Clippers, his mom Amanda was concerned that he might be in over his head – literally.
On a court primarily filled with adults and teenagers in a sport known for height, small 6th-grader Ethan stands out pretty dramatically.
“This was such an incredible experience for my son! I’m still in tears after everything we experienced just this weekend.” – Ethan’s mom, Amanda, after IST
“As a parent you’re always worried when a child starts a sport. But here’s this teeny tiny 12-year-old who weighs 60 pounds,” Amanda said. “But everyone took him under their wing. Everyone was so helpful, compassionate and caring.”
This was especially on display at the Indoor Sports Tournament (IST) in Oshkosh in April 2018. But it wasn’t just Ethan’s teammates and coaches who showed such kindness with him. At the tournament, opponents and referees were so taken by Ethan’s friendliness and warmth that they too took him under their wings and made sure he had fun on the court.
“At one point, 90 percent of the people on the court were stealing his nose and throwing it.” – Amanda
In order to get Ethan to run down the court, his team had taken to using the “I got your nose” game where they would pretend to take his nose and throw it down the court or toward the ball, where he would playfully run after his “nose.” But because Ethan has such an infectious personality that includes generous hug giving and tickling, the Door County Clippers’ opponents also ended up participating in the “I got your nose” game with Ethan.
“At one point, 90 percent of the people on the court were stealing his nose and throwing it,” Amanda said.
This display of camaraderie and unadulterated joy on the court led to everyone in the crowd in tears, according to Amanda.
“This was such an incredible experience for my son! I’m still in tears after everything we experienced just this weekend,” Amanda said in an email she wrote to SOWI staff just after the IST weekend.
Ethan made such an impression on those around him during the tournament that one referee thanked him for his great hugs after a game and an opponent’s coach playfully accused the Clippers of using Ethan’s cuteness factor to win, even though they had lost by double digits.
After the closing ceremony, one of the Clippers’ opponents even found Ethan to say a special hello. The Oshkosh Green Mustangs had been one of the teams that had playfully engaged with Ethan during their game against his team. The whole team was overjoyed to visit and take photos with “the nose boy.”
The whole experience left the usually pretty reserved Ethan eager to get back on the court. According to Amanda, despite being a young man of few words, one of Ethan’s constant refrains around the house since IST has been, “We need to play basketball again.”