Get this, there are people…intelligent, seemingly healthy, psychologically well-balanced people… who actually enjoy volunteering their time to coach elementary school level basketball. Can you believe it? Why? Why do they punish themselves so? It boggles the mind.
I have watched my son and daughter’s coaches spend the better part of the last couple of months basically doing what amounts to herding cats. I tell you, it’s better than watching the Comedy Channel.
There are kids running amok.
There are kids laughing.
There are kids picking their noses while running down the court.
There are kids screaming for the ball “I’m open! I’m open!” when they are 1) NOT open 2) nowhere near the basket, and 3) don’t even know who they are yelling it to in the first place.
Sometimes there are kid’s crying, but never for very long, and never with great sincerity.
One of the coaches, Pat, who is a saint, as far as I am concerned, had the best…the best…line the other night. He was bellowing at the top of his lungs (not because he was mad, but because it was the only way to be heard over ten 9-year-old boys dribbling (if that is what you want to call it) balls, yelling and laughing) about wanting them to throw the ball harder. This is such a great line. I’ll never forget it: “This is 3rd grade basketball ~ we’re not playing Tiddly Winks! Throw the ball harder!!!” And he was serious! How the heck did he say that without cracking up?
Pat’s co-coach, Doug, is a quieter man…very task oriented…I see him more often than not as a ‘safety sweep’ of sorts. He has to ride herd, really. For, in addition to teaching and coaching, it often falls to his lot to corral the stragglers on the court back to the task at hand. I swear I see cats every time he does this. They are herding the proverbial cats. I think he might actually benefit from getting a couple of herd dogs. Maybe some sheep dogs or collies or something.
Anyways, Doug, God Bless him, well, I’ve seen him cover his face with his hands more than half a dozen times during a practice. I often wonder if he goes home and has nightmares about 9 year olds over-running him.
My daughter’s coach, Tracy…she is the embodiment of patience. She voluntarily tries to make 10, ten-year-old girls grasp some semblance of an athletic mentality.
These are girls who are in the throes of prepubescence.
These are girls who are very, very concerned about whether or not their socks match to their hairbows.
Or if they have a zit showing.
Or if they remembered to take their favorite earrings out.
And they love to talk during practice. Loudly and to anyone who might be in earshot. Not necessarily about basketball mind you, but about anything that might pass through their frighteningly hormonal minds at any given moment.
And through all of this, Tracy doggedly strives to teach them the skills and strategies of Basketball.
Why? Why do these people sign up for this torture? Why subject themselves to the hoarse throats and headaches and exasperation during their resting, free hours? What drives them?
Are they trying to make up for past sins?
Are they paying back some awful Karma that befell them?
Did they lose a bet or something?
Tonight, my son’s coaches were attempting to get the boys to pass the ball …. pass. the. ball. …. when they get close to the basket, instead of just willy-nilly hurling the ball somewhere in the vicinity of the hoop. Over and over again they worked on a play wherein they had to pass the ball before attempting to shoot a basket. They all did this over and over. and over.
again and again….
Except, of course, for my son. He’s on a team of one, you see. Team Critter. He sees the ball, and sees the glory, and that’s all he sees. He’s kind of good at it. Not fantastic, but, he’s got potential. This is actually not helpful, because it takes a fair degree of humility to be a good team player. That’s a concept he has not yet mastered.
So at one point during this drill, Critter has the ball and is making his way towards the basket and I’m yelling, “PASS THE BALL!!” and the coach is yelling “PASS THE BALL!!”, and My Captain is yelling “PASS THE BALL!!”. And what does Critter do? He shoots the ball to the basket like he’s not supposed to. And from ridiculously far away, too…he was just inside the three-point line. Impossible. Ridiculous to shoot from there especially at his skill level and at his age!
But damn if that ball didn’t swoosh through that basket.
My Captain, laughing, yells out to Coach Doug, “Now HOW are you going to discourage that, Coach?”
And Doug’s face was in his hands….