Last year I was asked to join the coaching staff of the Varsity Basketball team. When the head coach mentioned my name as his assistant people laughed, a lot of people. I am not known for my basketball knowledge or skill. I was asked to be there because I am known for something else, sportsmanship, positivity and unending support of the kids. So I went to practice we laughed a lot, we took half court shots for slurpees, I learned a lot about the game but I also learned a lot about the kids. They were these unique amazing kids that all had their own stuff they were dealing with. We had a great season despite losing more games than we expected we had fun. We were a team.
This year came around and I was not asked back to help. A new coaching staff came in and I was not a part of it. To be honest I was really sad, I would miss the kids. Enter the JV coach asking me if I wouldn’t mind sitting on their bench and coming to practice because, again, the positivity. Now the bonus was also some of my favourite kids would be on the JV team this year. I took him up on his offer and joined the team. We had a lot of ups and downs throughout the year. Personality conflicts aplenty. Our first tournament we lost almost all of our games but I did get to walk through a scary alley at night and almost get attacked by a pitbull because one order at McDonalds took too long and the bus left without us. The losing of games was not the memory that I kept from that trip. It was the visiting on the bus, talking to my past students, now all grown up, about their classes and lives. Getting to know the other players who I had little interaction with before a little bit better. That was my take away from that game losing weekend, a win.
The season was tough, when we played together, when we laughed and celebrated each other we won, most of the time. When we look for each others flaws, played for ourselves and forgot that we were a team we lost. By the end of the season we were doing more of the later every game and really after an already seemingly long year I was tired. Unhappy parents, unhappy players and unhappy coaches. That is what the final weeks of the season felt like. One game we headed to another town to play a team that we beat by 70 the first time we played them. A combination of many factors caused us to lose. Coaching for sure played a roll, I even forgot to be positive. I think where I went wrong is I didn’t build them up enough, I didn’t help them see that they could build each other up and didn’t need me sitting on the bench cheering them on to know they could win a basketball game, that they could overcome being down and come back. A few weeks later we faced another team we had already beat earlier in the year and we lost again. This was a tough one but just last Monday in a “lose and you are out” playoff game. We came in with a different energy. We were loud on the bench, we lifted each other up, we played as a team and we won. The excitement was tangible.
Our season ended on Wednesday, a tough battle with a top ranked team. Down all game the boys fought hard and we almost squeaked out a win. Our season ended and as we sat in the change room with the coach giving one heck of a year end chat I thought back to how much I appreciated this amazing group of boys. All unique in what they brought to the team. The goofballs in practice that couldn’t be serious for longer than a minute but lead on the court and couldn’t hide their emotions if they tried in a game. The young ones still learning what it means to play high school ball. The kids trying to live up to a destiny and the ones trying to build one. It was such a season and I am grateful.
The coach asked me if I had anything to say, I thanked the boys for taking in the “fired varsity coach and letting me hang with them” but more than anything I told them I was just so honoured to be able to tell people I was a part of their team. This group of boys with their ups and downs taught me a lot this season. The lessons learned in Basketball volume 2. We forget how much this means to kids. It isn’t just a game. They put a lot of pressure on themselves. After Wednesday I think a few might not play High school ball again. I won’t be coaching. This was my last group for a while or forever.
I loved my time with the kids but I can support them without being on the bench. I can also support more kids that way.
I just want to end by saying Thank You. Thank you to my coaching partner, thank you to the 9 best JV players I have ever coached (and the couple of volunteers that would come out to practice so we had enough people to scrimmage). Thank you to the parents for trusting us to spend time with your kids and trying to help them develop as people. It was my honour and privilege.