I love coaching for many reasons: teamwork, respect for teammates, the chance to teach on the court, and just a way to keep yourself healthy. It’s a sport that if I could make a decent salary at it, I would love to try, but I don’t see any multi-year contracts being handed out for middle school girls basketball coaches! 🙂
Anyway, another reason I love coaching is because it strips away all the stuff that doesn’t matter and it leaves just you, your teammates, and the emotion of the game. You can’t escape that with SnapFaceTweetChatBook. You can’t escape it by reading a book, watching TV, or with anything else. It’s right there, and you have to deal with it, period.
We were 8 – 1, having won 8 straight games. Up to last night, we’d played exactly one bad half of basketball. The girls have handled the pressure of the each game, outscore their opponents by 13 points in the second half, averaging almost 44 points a game. We’ve been tested in games, fought back, and created chaos for teams. I’m not going to brag, but we are really good. And while all middle school teams have attitude issues, for the most part, we are able to keep that kind of nonsense in check. They want each other to go well, and for middle schoolers, that’s huge. This team places in my top three in terms of attitude, ability, and having girls that are confident in both themselves and their teammate.
Last night, we lost.
Last night, we looked lost.
Last night, we played our second bad half of basketball.
Last night, they learned they were not invincible
And the heart and soul of this team, the girl who’s the engine behind all we do, she had a really off night. This girl reminds me another girl (who just turned 26…lord I’m old), but I coached her as a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade player. She was the first down the court when we did sprints, she helped other people up, she made everyone around her better, and was truly a nice person. As that girl went, so went the team.
So, when I saw our leader in tears after the game, I knew, something was going right. Not that I wanted her to cry, or to be in pain, but sometimes, you need that. You need that disharmony of emotions, that raw, cutting feeling, you need that so you know you what it is you don’t want. I know the girls were like “dang” because you NEVER see her cry. But all I said to her was this, “We aren’t the team we are without you. You make all of us better, myself included.” And truly, we are. Without her, we’d be good, but not this kind of good.
I went home in a crappy mood, but as I woke to another morning, the sky hadn’t fallen, and we weren’t swallowed up in a hole. A good night’s sleep is a pretty good cure all for this kind of stuff. We’ve got one regular season game and three tournaments to play around the area. As a team, we’ll bounce back, as a player, she will too.
But to have that real emotion displayed, that shows she cares. And that makes me think she and her teammates will do great things when they get to high school.
Update: I didn’t get this posted on Friday like I wanted to, so I can add to it now. We played in a tournament on Sunday. Typical tournaments around here consist on two brackets, three teams in each bracket with each team playing each other. 1st – 6th place is then decided by playing the first vs. first, second vs. second, and third vs. third between the two brackets. The team lost to on Thursday was in the other bracket and when the girls saw that, they all said “we want that game.” My reply was simply “take care of business” on our side and we’ll see how they do. And we did just that, we beat the teams in our bracket, and they beat the teams in their bracket. We played a solid game, my girls came to play, and we came away with a 37 – 29 win. But it’s not the win, we were in control of the game, period. We got pressed, got a little rattled, but recovered. The above mentioned girl, led this team with her energy, and eventually fouled out with 2.2 seconds left. I smiled and told her, “2.2 seconds, really”, to which she smiled back and said nothing.
And sometimes, that smile and silence says it all! 🙂
January 17, 2017 at 6:10 pm
The subtitle of this could be: or, Why We Get Up In The Morning. Because it is the story of the golden moments of working with kids. You have made that team a place of profound learning. That it is a *middle school* team makes this story even more powerful. I’m glad you wrote it and that I read it. Mostly, though, I’m glad those girls get to play bball together– and with you.
January 17, 2017 at 6:25 pm
I’m the parent of middle schoolers. Hooray for teachers and coaches like you who show my kids how to move past failure!
January 18, 2017 at 8:13 am
It’s a tough teachable moment, but we move forward. That’s what we hammer on is learning from the mistake and going forward with new knowledge. Thanks for stopping in! 🙂
January 17, 2017 at 6:34 pm
I am thinking how coaching and teaching – and teams- need those shared moment of tears and joy. In the end, it’s all about the heart. Congrats to you & your team for bouncing back!
January 18, 2017 at 8:12 am
That’s almost exact what I told them this weekend when they got shaken. “You’ve got the skills, now finish with the heart.” They rolled their eyes, but they got it all the same! Thank you for your comment! 🙂
January 17, 2017 at 8:09 pm
This distinction resonates: “Last night, we lost. Last night, we looked lost.” Bravo to you and your team for responding to setbacks, finding your way.
January 18, 2017 at 8:10 am
We can only do what we can. Losing is a part of every sport, and it’s all about how you respond to those set backs. I thought we responded pretty well! 🙂 Thank you for your thoughts!
January 18, 2017 at 8:06 am
“Last night, we lost. Last night, we looked lost.” It happens, how to deal with losing, to persevere, then come back to play again is an important lesson. You had an excellent teaching moment and you did so superbly.
January 18, 2017 at 8:09 am
I like to think we did! It’s much more about them than me. I’m just along for the ride at this point! 🙂