As I’ve mentioned before, I coach jr. high girls (madness I say, madness!).  It’s a passion of mine, something that I look forward to all year long simply because it’s another teaching outlet, just on a court.  Last night, I had one of my eighth graders literally lose her voice during the game.  Between the team and I, we had a blast with the “could you yell for the ball” comments, laughing and smiling because that’s what this level is about: learning more of the basics, yet having fun doing so.

This year, I’ve got the luxury with my teams that I can move two of my seventh graders up to play on my eighth grade team which is very small, six girls.  So, suddenly, with those two additions, my eighth graders don’t wear out like they did last year, and my seventh graders are gaining experience, pretty much a win-win for me!

That eighth grade team is very talented, not real big, but I’ve got a core of four girls who can run with pretty much anyone.  They move well, pass well, and will continue to improve.  Two problems: they are all going different directions after this season because of the total uncertainty of our school district (of the four, three have possible plans to attend different schools next year) and I’ve got a point guard who’s very free willed.

Last night, we played and beat a team we were “supposed” to beat.  This point guard right off the bat takes to dribbling all over the place, forcing shots, then getting frustrated turns around and making silly mistakes.  I let this happen for a while to see if she’d right herself, but finally pulled her out.  With my seventh graders, I have another point guard, so suddenly, I have options with this eighth grader.  I talk to her, tell her how when she allows plays to come to her, she plays so much better.  I also tell her she’s at her best when she’s not forcing things, allowing plays to open up rather then pushing them. Fine. She goes back in, makes a couple of good plays, and goes right back to doing what I asked her not to do. *sigh*

It’s just like the classroom, you’ve given that child numerous options, chances, and quietly have directed them as to what your expectations are, but yet they go right back to that behavior.  What do you do?  Well, one of those things I love about basketball, the bench is the great equalizer.  She sat more last night in that one game then probably in the last five games last year.  She whined and complained about sitting, wanting to get back into the game, and I calmed just asked about her play and if she was listening to me.  Needless to say she wasn’t happy.  Did she get back into the game? Of course, she too good of a player to let sit.  Did the message get through?  We’ll see.

That child in my classroom who’s gone through all those chances and choices, they need that “bench” to think.  Sometimes that’s recess, other times it’s the hallway, but that time away from peers to reflect on what they are doing. If that’s not working, a behavior plan, a check-in/check-out system, parental meeting.  We as educators sometimes allow so many choices and chances that students begin to think there are no consequences to their actions.  Use that “bench” to your advantage, as your equalizer.  We have a wide range of strategies to at our disposal both within our own toolbox and with the people we work with.

It always comes back to the student and taking responsibility for their actions.  If they can’t do that, then it is our job to use that bench to help them learn that their are always choices and consequences, both good and bad, to those choices.  And it’s that what we want, those students who can see that their actions have consequences?