If you are one of 12 readers of my blog (thanks Mom for recruiting some of your friends!), then you know I’m a basketball junkie. I’ll watch just about any basketball I can find. Fifth grade recess? Sure! High school boys? Heck yes. A team full of former players? Absolutely!

Last night, after conferences, I was given permission to “end the season”! 🙂 Our regular middle school season started at the end of October and we finished that up in the middle of January. This the first year of our “club team”, so we continue playing with almost all the same girls from the middle part of January through this week. It’s an abrupt end of to another special season, and not for reasons people might thinks.

We had 8 wins against 3 losses. We beat teams we were supposed to beat, lost to teams I expected we lose to, but we also had games where we won where we had no business winning. That’s the sign of growth on any level. We started out with no shooters, period. Last year, we had girls who, as the season progressed, could shoot the lights out. This group did not start that way, so we practiced shooting, a lot. Now, we’ve got two girls I trust (almost) to take whatever shot comes open to them. The question I have, will in continue into the off season? That I cannot answer with these two because each have to their own unique personalities and that brings with is their own unique set of challenges too! 🙂

Last year’s group was short. We didn’t have a girl over 5’9″, so they had to work hard to defend taller girls. This year, we had two girls at 5’10” and another girl at 5’9″! We were able to do somethings on defense that I could normally do because of size. I’m not much a zone defense guy because I watch girls get lazy with it. I could put those three on the floor together, and we’d slow teams down because they’d be forced into jump shots! These three need to get in the gym to work on two things: jump shots and post moves. If this happens, who knows how good they can be?!?

With the size on this team, and the shooters in the grade above, the next few years will be fun to watch.

This year’s addition really grew together as a team. Each 8th grade team comes in as a collection of players, and this year was no different. The difference was that this team was more segregated between between their friend groups than most I’ve had. Then, they started to trust each other. I don’t think either group is going to invite the other over for a sleep over, but that trust just grew out from our practicing, something that I wasn’t expecting. As they started playing games, you could see it on the floor, girls trying new things because they knew their teammates wouldn’t freak out if the shot or pass wasn’t successful. There was a willingness, more so that in many years I’ve coached, for girls to reach beyond their social status and just play. They probably don’t realize it happened, but that’s the thing I’m most proud of with them, just their willingness to be a team.

The one thing I think contributed this the most: breakfast. We practiced, from October to March, every Wednesday morning, at 6:30 A.M. That in itself will bring a group together. However, after each morning practice, the girls would come down to my room, and we’d have breakfast: cinnamon rolls and chocolate milk. The girls would tell stories, laugh, and just bond. That one time contributed more our team than most of the practices ever did. Getting to see your teammates, your classmates, as funny, goofy 8th grade girls, that was priceless.

My takeaways from this season: 1) My focus on defense is correct. 2) Shooters are made in the off-season. Get the 7th grade interested in shooting. 3) Cinnamon rolls are the cure to what ails the word!