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March 8, 2016

Coaches of the Weekend

Coaches of the Weekend

TEAM TUESDAY – After the games on Sunday, I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking about the games that day. I blamed myself for not switching to a zone, or pressing, or teaching the seventh grade team a press earlier because I wanted them to fall in love with every aspect of solid man-to-man. Then I started thinking about the grade 5 boys who played terrific against an all grade 6 team in straight-up man for one full half (man on both ends of the floor), as then the 6th grade coach switched to the oldest trick in the book: 1-3-1. I begged for the kids to run a 2-1-2 and was probably too hard on them as they crumbled. Hitting those diagonals is too tough at that age. Getting the ball in the corner and knocking down that shot or knowing to attack or dish to the diver from the high post – too much to ask for and the other coach knew it.   The sixth grade team should have won – don’t get me wrong – but it would have been nice to have held it closer in the second half no matter what defense they were in.

Coach Kristin, who started with us in 2010, text me before I went to bed. “Mo, I can’t stop thinking about our loss. If I played to win, we could have taken them.” It’s true. If she put her strongest five on the floor the entire game, they would have won. But she didn’t do so, while the other team had an army of 14 players. The new coach mumbled something she didn’t think I heard when I ran out of medals (12-player roster limit). “I have never seen a few of these girls before.” I haven’t told Kristin yet. I noticed the same thing when I walked into the gym and saw a good-sized girl I’d never seen before score at least three times. Her mother was talking to the program director post-game. Director was trying to keep the conversation down, but I heard him say, “She played okay tonight. Needs to work on some things. Practices are Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

This team beat a team that was playing by the rules (our team) and playing the 10 girls who showed up enough for them to say it was worth the trip. I didn’t say anything to the director because it’s water over the dam. He’s done this several times before, and I caught him two years ago simply by asking the girls what grade they were in after he swore up and down that they were sixth graders. Most were grade 7.   At least three were grade 8. I told the girls that grade 8 cannot play.

I just forgot to check this year, and I arrived at the end of the game so there was nothing I could do. I truly want more girls’ teams in NYC to participate. Yet I will put in my gmail calendar reminder system for early January 2017 to bring out the roster police to audit this group early in the season, and put another one down for March Madness.

I didn’t sweat it because I knew justice would be served in the final game.

Milbank girls beat this team by 40 points.

My sister Meghan said that every parent and kid in the B division got their money’s worth. She said the games were thrilling to watch in our little four-on-four gyms. Denise emailed me and said they were upset in the semi of the 10U Girls A bracket. She said the ref slowed the game down to a crawl by calling everything. Two of her girls fouled out and all of the other team’s shots were on free throws. Denise said she almost lost it during the game (thank you, D, for keeping it together). A parent was quite upset about it and there was some back-and-forth in the stands with another parent. Denise in the middle of the game yelled across the floor, “That had better not be a Motion parent over there.”

Kudos to Denise for holding it down and together amid the disappointment. I wrote to her later, saying that I’ll never forget the game in the quarterfinals of nationals our junior year. We were a New York team playing in the south in front of hundreds of scouts. The refs were so bad. Six of us fouled out. One or maybe two players did from Southeast Alabama. I told the parents who wanted to talk about the game (as if we could re-do it) in an email this week that 1) this is 10U youth basketball and 2) I am sure no one in that gym was more upset than Denise, and she handled it like a pro.

Adding to the list of coaches of the weekend are Kevon, who won the 10U B Division and always takes a great championship photo. Justin coached on a broken foot (his brother drove him in from Staten Island)—and he is terrific with the kids. And last, but not least, is the fine job done by Shemika this season.

Shemika, who hooped at St. John’s, coaches a team with little experience, a team with some experience, but no natural talent, and a team (my former team) that has some talent, but lacked ball and body control for the last three years. Not only did she coach beautifully in the first two scenarios, but she just crushed her 3rd game of the weekend. Her grade 6-7 X team was playing player-to-player, pressing, playing zone, moving the ball, and attacking the basket. Granted it was sloppy at times and the other team wasn’t Milbank (not yet anyway), but I could not believe some of the moves the girls were making out there.   Last year they threw the ball away almost every time. When a few girls dribbled, I cringed. Those same girls were bringing the ball up, changing hands, and making real moves to the hoop that looked like moves. And they were crashing the boards.

It was one big reminder that it just takes time. Not all kids learn to read at the exact same age. It takes work, time and patience. All of my work in teaching them how to run a well-oiled offense and how to lock down on man sets the foundation for me to pass them on to other coaches who are pros at building the next level of physical and mental development.

I rarely jump out of my seat as a fan, but I did while watching Shemika’s blue team. The reason is because it was the second of two awesome blocks by our girls, who were playing with six. I think Evan or Sasha stretched out for the first. You could hear the clean pop of the ball. Foul. Then seconds later, Vivian, who is totally new to hoops, stretched out to cover the rim on the break and stuffed the girl so clean that she pinned it against the girl. I jumped up and screamed, “Come on!” to two refs I know and like. I yelled out, “We’re trying to make them tougher and you’re not helping us.”

The calls we could not get back. Yet anybody who saw where the girls were a year ago, to where they are now, understands what huge gains we’ve made as a program with such outstanding coaches who are building up girls willing to go for a good, clean stuff.

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