I’ve been a coach at our school for 21 years (I think).
Hush. For the first few years, I was both the 7th and 8th grade girls basketball coach. Practices would be with both teams, working together, and games would be with me on the bench, both games.
It was exhausting, but I was young and loved it. Club team games would be me coaching six games in a single day, three 7th grade games, and three 8th grade games. Those days, I’d drink a lot of Diet Coke, no doubt. But again, I love it.
Then, our school and neighboring district make the choice to consolidate and I became the 8th grade girls coach (much to the chagrin of some I’m sure). The reduced games were wonderful! Just practicing with one team was pretty sweet too. However, the relationships weren’t built with the girls between teams. Most played some together on club ball, but for some, they’d never played with each other before.
I’ve had really good teams and some teams that struggled. I’ve had players who went on to college to play and others who quit mid-season. I’ve had outstanding shooters and others who had issues hitting the backboard. The one common denominator they’ve all had, I’ve cared about all of them. The old adage is “People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care,” and this is so true coaching girls. I’d messed up relationships by being a horse’s butt and I openly admit that mistake. Boys will run through walls if you tell them to. Girls will do the same IF they feel that trust.
This is all going somewhere, I promise.
A couple of years ago, I’d found a couple of old scorebooks with stats from years back, so I started counting up wins. No one cares about middle school coaching stats, but I keep track of wins, losses, points for, points against, general things like that. I was surprised to see that since I’d begun coaching here, we’d won 96 games. Sweet!
And again, hush. So last year, I thought we’d make that 100 mark. Then Covid. Enough said. So, this year, I thought we’d reach that number. Our first four games were not pretty. Not at all. But, the girls started to gel a little bit. We played competition more at our level, and suddenly we were at 99. Again, not a big deal because I’m just middle school coach.
Last night’s game was against a heated rival who repeatedly scores more points than we do! 🙂 I told my wife that she could probably skip the game because, knowing our first four games, I was not overly optimistic. She gave me the what-for about being positive, so I relented, and it was probably a good idea. After school, the girls are warming up, and I talked briefly with the opposing coach and found out we had similar problems with similar teams. Wait, this team is beatable! 🙂
The game goes back and forth. Our advantage is a 6’3″ center. Hee hee. In the end, she’s to much for the other team, and we win 31 – 26.
Win #100. It was a total surprise that it happened against this team, but having done it on this night can never be taken away and as I see them, that is what I’ll remember!
After the game, my wife and I had a quiet dinner together and toasted this milestone. This happened a day after Lisa Bluder, the women’s coach at the Univerity of Iowa, notched her 800th win. I tweeted out last night, she’s a hall of fame coach with a resume as tall as I am and I’m just an 8th grade coach, but it’s still pretty cool.
Most days, if we get the opportunity to get to do the things we are passionate about, we are doing something right in the world. I look at what I do, teaching and coaching, and while I’ve grown curmudgeonly and a bit jaded maybe more than a bit), it’s not a life I would want to trade. It’s given me awesome experiences to share with my family and given me the chance to coach some amazing people. A few of my past players give me a look into their adult lives via social media. I’m flabbergasted that I’ve played a tiny role in their success.
To see someone you’ve taught and/or coached be successful, a pretty freaking good feeling in your soul.
On a side note, we had a staff meeting this morning, and as I walked in, there was much cheering and applause for this accomplishment. I bought flowers for my wife yesterday and this is how she repays me?? Ugh! 🙂