|Posted by [email protected] on July 10, 2011 at 4:45 PM|
When last I wrote on this blog, some two years ago, I told about a grand adventure upon which my oldest daughter and I were embarking – a blog I called “Where no writer has gone before.” We were setting out to co-write a zombie novel.
We never got where we were going, instead getting sidetracked by another little adventure.
We wrote – if I recall correctly, about 15,000 words, which is a sizable chunk of a young adult novel. We clashed over some plot points, a few characters, and then it all came to a halt.
My daughter was entering her final year of high school varsity basketball and, as practice was set to began, the head coach dropped out. I had coached my kids in younger divisions of basketball and soccer, so my daughter suggested I offer my services as coach.
I wanted no part of that. At the high school level the game is much more competitive, intense, and fast-paced. I told her no not because I wasn't interested, but simply because I was afraid I'd mess things up for the team. Cost them losses through bad coaching moves.
She continued asking me, cajoling me, and generally bugging the daylights out of me until I told her I'd volunteer to assist. I went to the athletic director and said I'd be willing to help whoever they found to serve as head coach.
They found me.
So I put my writing aside for a while and spent virtually all of my spare time brushing up on basketball. As a former high school player and casual fan, I knew all the basics. But there is a world of difference between watching a game on television and coaching, between knowing the basic rules and recognizing and understanding the strategies unfolding on the court. I spent many late nights going over videos, learning plays and defenses, trying to figure out drills I could use to teach my players.
I was fortunate in that it was a senior-laden team. Out of 11 players, six were in their final year of high school, and two others – a junior and a sophomore – might as well have been seniors because of their skill, understanding of the game and dedication to the sport.
We didn't do too badly with a rookie coach on the bench. In fact, we did darn well, if I say so myself. We finished 30-5, won the regular season conference title with an unbeaten league record, took the regional title and the state championship! Over the course of the year we played in a total of four tournaments and we had the Most Valuable Player award winner in each tournament, but here's the kicker. Four different players from our team won those MVP awards, which is virtually unheard of in basketball.
More importantly, I made some great friends among the parents and players. I still keep in touch with some of those now-graduated young ladies, and it felt really good to know I had a small part in their on-court success and, hopefully, some of the things we did that year carried into their off-court lives.
Well, you may ask, that accounts for one year of absence from the blog and writing life. What about the second year?
I'll answer that by saying I'm still the basketball coach. My plan was one year and done, but I found I love doing this. It's a real kick to study video, to work in practice, to match wits on the court with other coaches. What's even more amazing about this is working with the young ladies, helping them grow together as friends and as a unit, leading them to become better players and more confident people.
Our second season wasn't quite as successful from a won-loss standpoint, but I consider it a smashing success none-the-less. Remember, we had six of eleven players graduating. One of the remaining four elected not to return, and that sophomore I mentioned, who was the leading scorer on my team that first year, tore her ACL in practice, so she was done for the year before we even played a game this second season.
That left us with two healthy returning players and eight newbies this past season. Those new players consisted of a junior who hadn't played ball since little league days, six eighth graders and a seventh grader.
Let me remind you, this is high school varsity basketball. Most of our competitors consisted of teams chocked full of sophomores, juniors and seniors.
But we did okay. Our overall record was 18-17. We finished second in the regular season conference race, and second in a couple of tournaments. Early in the year a few of those teams pounded us pretty good, to the tune of 15- and 20-point defeats, but we kept at it and by the end of the season we had beaten all of those teams that defeated us during the first half of the year.
You know something? I'm just as proud of those ladies who finished 18-17 as I am of the ones who were 30-5.
As my mom used to say when I was a boy, if the Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be coaching again this year. But I'm working to strike a little more balance in my life, to reconnect with my writing while still working, coaching, and spending a little time with the family.
I'm looking forward to this season. We lost one senior from last year, and I have a junior from last season's team who isn't returning. But we do have the injured player coming back, a couple of new ladies may join the team, and all those first-year players from a year ago will be stepping on the court with a year's worth of varsity experience behind them.
We will still be the youngest team in our conference – remember, six of those returning players will only be ninth-graders, and another in eighth-grader – and the two new players are ninth-graders.
We're going to become closer friends, better players, and a more competitive team. Who knows, we might even bring home a state title again – no easy feat playing against older, more experienced squads.
Most of the time I'll be blogging here about my writing, some upcoming publishing plans, maybe a bit about my take on world events, but I can almost promise you a few basketball updates will surface here from time to time. I love coaching, and I am proud of my ladies win or lose.
But for now, my focus will be on writing.