I tried to post this on Facebook, but it just got too long, so I’ll write here and post the link there! 🙂
This weekend was the fifth tournament that a small team of seventh and eighth graders has played in since January. We’ve got five 8th grade girls who’d play any team, any time, and would play from tip-off to final horn just because they could. I’ve got a couple of more 8th graders who join us when they can, and two seventh graders we’ve brought into the mix as well. If we have everyone, we have nine girls, but we usually will play with seven.
So, this tournament we have seven who said they were going to be there. Awesome! 🙂 Regardless of who’s with us, my five 8th graders have shown they can compete, period, so I’m feeling pretty confident. My wife calls as I’m getting ready to head out the door. One of my ultra-competitive girls is home throwing up, she won’t be playing.
Ok, we can manage. 5 minutes later, I get a call from this girl’s mom, and no, she’s not playing. 5 minutes after there, there’s a call from ANOTHER parent, “My daughter’s got a pretty bad head cold, would she need to be there?”
Ummmm…yes, she needs to be there as we now have six girls.
I get to the tournament, and of my six girls, my three point specialist missed the previous day of school with a cold, my point guard should have missed a day with a cold, my above mentioned wing has a cold, and one of my seventh graders has a cold as well.
So, my expectations are high with this team, I expect to win (and they do too) each time we step on the court. Here are the teams the girls were scheduled to play: an eighth grade team from Linn-Mar, a 5-A school who’s girls varsity team is #10 in the state, an eighth grade team from Crestwood who’s girls varsity team is #2 in the state, and an travel team from Turkey Valley who’s girls varsity team is #3 in the state. Pretty good names in girls basketball right now!
Our first game was against Linn-Mar, and I had a chance to talk to the coach a little bit, and this wasn’t the “ultra elite” team they have. That team was in Ames that day playing (thank goodness) and was a team that played all year long, traveling to different states for competition. We played to our sickness level, looking all out of sorts and rightly full so against a team we’d never seen before. It was a back and forth kind of game, and with three minutes left, one of my six girls fouls out. She comes off the court, sits down, and bursts into tears. So, I get to put on my dad hat, and get her calmed down, all the while Linn-Mar closes the gap to three. 3.4 seconds left, they get the ball out of bounds, and for some reason, we forget about a girl in the corner, so it able to catch and shoot, but missed. Final score, 25 -22.
Next up, in a back to back set, Crestwood. I’ve coached this 8th grade team, starting in October, both their regular season and now this tournament stuff. I’ve never called a time out because I felt the game was getting away until this game. We were behind 7 – 15, and looked even more tired and sick than the first game (go figure, playing two games in a row!) We talked a little bit a defense, and they came out, and finished the half behind one, 14 – 15. Girls were pale and just didn’t look good sitting on the bench, and with parents behind them watch me, we went the humor route. We talked about coughing on our hands before we went out, how much snot was in the Kleenex behind the bench, and how we’d just like to take a nap right now, anything to take their minds off of basketball. They came out, make the first 6 points, and while Crestwood rallied late, we made our free throws, and won 29 – 24.
Before I showed up at this tournament, I’d called the director and said we had one girl out, another girl who missed school on Friday, and I wasn’t sure after the back to back games how we’d be feeling. I wanted to be upfront that we’d not play the last game if it came to that. So, right after the game, we talked just briefly and I asked, in all seriousness, “Are we playing the last game?”
You’d have thought I’d kicked a puppy by the looks I got from them. “What kind of question is that??” “Did you really ask that question??” Ummmm, ok then, I guess we’ll play! 🙂
Our last game was against the Turkey Valley Storm, a traveling team from their school. They’d been in previous tournaments and was a team I wanted to play because they pressed and played a very similar style to us. It would be a good test of what would could do. We got down, again, but one of my forwards finally started hitting shots and we went into half time with a 14 – 12 lead. All I told the girls at half was this: “You are a second half team. You’ve played from behind the first two games, but have the lead here. Play like a team with the lead and finish this game in the first 10 minutes.”
And they did just that.
One of the reasons I love this team is they are so unselfish. They make the extra pass and they look to pass before they score. Another reason why, we have the best shooters I’ve ever coached, period. And, we have three of them. First possession of the second half, our point guard shoots and makes a 3 pointer. Second possession down, we drive to the lane, kick the ball out, our three point specialist buries a second three. Third possession, point guard hits another three. They were done after that. We played strong, clean, and fun half of basketball with everyone getting involved, whether it was good defense, a nice screen, a great cut to the basket. Final score, 37 – 18. A 23 – 6 second half made this a great way to finish our tournament.
One positive that we talked about, how much we need the player that was sick. I was amazing that we won this tournament. We’ve played two other times with six girls, and just run out of gas in the last game. But we talked about how that third shooter we have, how much our 8th graders rely on her for many different aspects of the game. That was nice for me to hear, how they’ve grown as a team. The other positive I took away from this game, don’t underestimate the heart of a champion. It’s lame to say that, but they continue to show reach a certain level, then push right past it. Six girls, four of them sick to some degree, and we beat some pretty good competition? I’m still shaking my head.
We lose our two seventh graders to their own traveling team, and I’m so happy they were able to play with us. They’ve grown, and will get better. As juniors and seniors, they will play for conference championships and more, there is that much potential there.
Crazy thing about potential, though, it can be realized or wasted, and that’s what I keep telling them. So many distractions will pop up, how will you deal with them? Are you surrounding yourself right now with the people who can help you realize your dreams? Or will you let the negative people in your life, those naysayers bring you down?
Time will tell, but I’m loving the ride! 🙂
NOTE: Looking ahead, we have a three game tournament on February 19 and one on the 25th. IF we win out, our tournament wins plus our regular season wins, we’ll finish our season together with 27 wins and 5 losses. What the heck?? Not many college teams reach that number, let alone an 8th grade team from the middle of nowhere! 🙂
NOTE TWO: I’m not sure how many parents will see this: thank you. I appreciate the trust you’ve given me to coach your daughters, and the time (and money) invested in getting your daughter to all these tournaments. This is a special team, and I’m so happy to be given the opportunity to coach them.