PLEASE NOTE: This was written in December, so a lot has happened since then. However, the meaning and emotion of the writing is eternal. I hope it speaks you in February the way it spoke to me right after that final game with this team.
First, screw off Covid.
Second, screw off concussions.
There, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I can write.
Our season, just like our year, has been a big dumpster fire. We played one game, then our top girl went out with close contact with Covid. Then, our season was stopped because we here in Iowa believe that masks are for Halloween and that’s it. Our cases went through the roof and suddenly, youth and middle school sports were shut down.
I truly did not think we’d get back to playing and had mentally prepared myself that our season was done. But our governor put a “partial mask mandate” into play (Google Kim Reynolds – she’s not good at governing), and, what do you know, it worked. Kind of. I’m not sure what our positivity rate was at the beginning of November, but as of today, it’s 34%. Still not very good (1,900 new cases), but our country went from 20%+ to below 10%, so we are playing basketball again.
Hold on, our first practice back, we are scrimmaging, and looking good, when my top player runs into another player and they bonk heads. Suddenly, we are dealing with concussion protocols and she’s out for this game (FYI: She’s cleared to play tomorrow).
The kicker of all this, we are playing a team that smoked our girls last year. Our motto these last few days, play fearlessly. It’s your last game, it’s the last time as a group, what do you have to lose? Just do the things right that we can do and we’ll see how it goes.
Well, we didn’t do bad. The final score was not pretty, but they played with a swagger they’ve not played with before. I cannot argue with the effort, we just got tired and when you get tired, you get slower. A month of no practice and our best player being out worked against us, like I thought it would
However, I’m coming down to my room, and one of my players has her head buried in her locker, sobbing. I ask her what was wrong and she starts in about how she didn’t care that we lost but then she did. I talked with her, got her calmed down, and sent her on her way. The raw emotion just made me reflect about that fact that Covid has made things hard and that even though we put up this facade that things are ok, when that time for closure comes, sometime, we just aren’t.
I was left with that empty feeling of “what if” because they don’t have a club team, so they are done until spring basketball and for some, they are just done. And for that girl, I doubt she’ll play again because “I suck” (even though she doesn’t), and will more than likely play soccer. It’s like our team is just gone, and that makes me sad. It will be hard to look at their picture on my cabinet without thinking “damnit”.
I’ll send this to that girl so she can read it first, and I hope she and all her teammates know how much I truly enjoyed coaching them. It’s always a honor to coach each team, and feel honored to have had that privilege to do be with them, even if it wasn’t for very long!
Just like teaching, once you’ve coached them they are in your heart forever. Each one of my teams holds a spot. Some I remember more than others, but they all are there. Sometimes, I wonder if this is the last year. I’m getting old you know! 🙂 But, I won’t go out on a season like this. I love middle school basketball because it’s truly that place to teach. I could win zero games, but if I can teach them, help them become better players and better people, that’s what it’s all about!
Plus, next year I have two girls above six foot and a tall point guard too! 😉
And what the heck, three times in four year we have people crying about basketball?? There’s no crying in basketball!! 🙂