ABSAROKEE — Basketball is one of the most accessible sports in the world - all you need is a hoop and a ball. But now imagine the ball with little tiny spikes on it that make your hands bleed. That's what basketball is like for Lexi Feddes, but it hasn't stopped her from playing the game she loves.
"I get stressed out and it gets worse," Feddes said. "Then I play basketball and it gets really worse, and I can't do anything about it."
Imagine you're at the free throw line, game hanging in the balance, every set of eyes in the gym on you. Feel the pressure? Sports are filled with it. Unfortunately for Feddes, severe eczema she developed at just nine months old won't let her overcome it.
"It dries out my skin - the basketball and the leather. So it cracks and then I bleed," said Feddes. "Then I'd get it on my white jersey and I couldn't play for the rest of the game."
"Her freshman year, she'd get stressed. She wanted to be out there but couldn't be out there because she was in the back getting cleaned up all the time," added dad Brian Feddes.
The family had to figure out how to stop the bleeding. The only way to do that is to cover Lexi's hands.
"I had to get rubber gloves, and then I put them on and then I taped them, but that didn't work," Lexi said.
"It made it slick, so we tried taping it, but then her hands got sweaty, so sweat would run out of her hands," Brian said of the initial attempt. "So we had to come up with a way to get it to where she could handle the ball."
At this point, Feddes was beyond frustrated, but then came an answer straight from the ranch: roping gloves - rubber on the bottom, nylon on top with space to let air flow through. That's one problem solved. But have you ever tried to shoot a basketball with gloves on? It's a completely different game.
"I pretty much had to relearn how to shoot, because I can't feel the ball with these gloves on," Lexi explained.
"To understand what finger it comes off of when she's shooting, where's it going to go when she's dribbling. The senses are dulled, so it makes it harder for her," Brian said.
Sophomore year was a struggle.
"She usually has a pretty positive attitude, but she definitely can get frustrated - we all can," said senior point guard Kaiya Holmquist. "Last year she didn't want to wear them that much. This year she's OK with it - she practices with them more."
Acceptance has made a big difference. Feddes is back to being a key contributor for Absarokee, complete with a doctor's note taped to every scoresheet. But she still has plenty of explaining to do.
"They ask why I have to wear them, and then I have to tell them that I bleed, and then it's a long thing, and they just stare at me and don't have any response most of the time," Lexi said with a laugh.
"There's some fans that get on her about, 'Why does she get to wear gloves? It's not fair,'" Brian said. "And I usually tell them, 'If you want to wear gloves, go ahead,' because it's not helping."
Though there is at least one player who likes them.
"For me it's kinda nice because I can see the black gloves to pass to," Holmquist said. "She's asking for it behind - I can see the black gloves through all the non-gloved hands."
Hey - if the glove fits.