“Time-Out” I shouted from the sideline. One of the players as they walked by said, “we can’t do it, they are just too tall!”
“OK,” I said, “I’m going to grab the ref and tell him we forfeit, that we don’t want to play because the other team is too tall.”
“No, we want to play” they pleaded so I challenged them.
“You want to play? Then play and play hard. I don’t care if they are bigger! They are laughing at us over there. Do I care about the score? No! (it was 20-7) What I do care about is that you play hard. If I see anyone that doesn’t know what they are doing or confused on the court I’m pulling you out of the game. PLAY HARD!” I demanded and boy oh boy did they ever.
The rest of game I interchanged players every 30-60 seconds it seemed. We were Team Impact and were playing the best team in our small three team league after a double header. The league we play in is the YMCA and a great starting point for young players learning the game of basketball. With the type of players I have I don’t really care about a score or winning. This is about me teaching them the ‘game’ is between time and themselves. Can they be better this week than the previous week? If that answer is yes I’ve succeeded as a coach.
We started playing scrappy, swiping at every held ball we could. I could see that the other team was getting annoyed. I looked over at the scorer’s table and noticed the score read: 20-11.
“We have 13” I leaned over to tell the score keeper. She said, “I don’t think so.” I showed her my stat sheet so she changed the score. We made three free throw shots which had us with an odd number.
The other team started talking, even swinging elbows a bit more to shake off our scrappy defenders. We were getting in their head. All those weeks of teaching them how to block out was finally paying dividends. We have a short team but held our own as the game came to the conclusion.
It was our ball, under our basket, with who knows how much time left in the game. “Stack, stack, stack” I shouted from the side line. It is the only play our young team remembered.
My daughter, Taya, was the inbounder. Her first option is to pass to the third person in the line if he’s open. He was. She passed and he scored. The crowd erupted; I didn’t really know what was going on, but was so proud of the team for executing the play to perfection.
“It’s 21!” One of the fans shouted from across the gym.
I turned to look at the scorers table and saw the score read 20-20. I quickly looked to my clipboard but wasn’t focused enough to add up the tallies. The person running the scoreboard was a mom of one of the players for the team we were playing. I had to be careful how I approached her.
“We have an odd number.” I told her. She was busy and didn’t hear me. “We have an odd score” I told the ref as she passed by. “We have an odd number” I said to the score keeper only this time tapping the table. “It’s either 19 or 21.”
She finally had a minute to check her book then moved the number from 20 to 21. ‘We were winning’ I chuckled to myself.
There was a split second that I thought about communicating to our point guard to take our time and hold the ball.
BAH! What was I thinking, we were the short scrappy team that didn’t have a chance in the world. “Attack, attack” I demanded from the bench and our ball handler quickly put his head down and drove to the hoop. He missed the layout and the horn sounded!
As the players came off the court some of them started to raise their hands and celebrate, I quickly squashed that notion. “Hey, we don’t care about the score remember?” I say this when we are on the losing end of the score and I’ll be sure to say it when we our on the winning side of the score.
“We play this game to increase our abilities and to get better. A score is simply something others do for measurement. Now let’s shake their hands and come back next week.”
I hid my excitement pretty well. On the inside I felt like I just won the NBA championship. Ah, my imagination, the score doesn’t matter to them but it absolutely matters to me.
I’m so proud of this team and that game. It was incredible to see the switch go off with their understanding of this beautiful game called Basketball.
We play the same team next week and it will be interesting to see how they respond. ‘They’ meaning both teams.