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May 3, 2016

Reward the Intangibles

Reward the Intangibles
TEAM TUESDAY – There’s a boy in the mix of the grade 5 group who stood out to me this weekend. It wasn’t because he was playing well. It was for what he did when he realized he wasn’t playing well. He knew he had a short amount of time – in his head – to impress me as I was coaching his team. He knows I make the decisions about the teams year-round, and in his head, this was his chance.
The first game of the two was just a little slow to start given that it’s a new group. I think the boy saw that he was not on the list for game 2, so he probably put too much pressure on himself. Plus I soon realized that the first group was weaker than the second on the hole – not by a ton, but by enough to notice. So maybe it looked like I put him on the B team. I sort of split them to see what would happen. They’re only 10-11 years old. No need to think too much or stress them out when friends are involved and it’s spring development time. The kids were nervous, their timing was off, they were not aggressive on the boards or in general. I was ranting about it, and then one little new guy started diving on the floor, and then this boy realized that he could do it, too. He dove for balls, reached for deflections, and sprinted. We lost and he was upset, but his effort stuck out in my head after coaching seven games. I also feel like the kids were trying to adjust. They were listening. They were disappointed in the outcome, yet happy that they now were in uniforms and getting to know each other in a game setting.

We have 10 teams playing this spring grades 4-10. I just made up the rosters, which are built in a way that force kids to be in positions that they will be playing if they want to continue to move up the basketball ladder. This means no hiding behind a few players or ball handlers. We are small as a program (relative to hoops world). It’s not good to have point guards playing with point guards for years. I don’t allow our kids to play big unless I am sure they will be big in high school. We play mostly 4-5 guard offense with a few kids jumping into the high post, but not for the entire season. We have one sure big in the program on the boys’ side and probably 2-3 tall girls who should learn the post position given that in high school, that’s where they will play even though they’re really good-sized guards.
Also when I’m on the fence about splitting up friends or trying to balance or strengthen a team of grade 5-6 kids knowing we can face some tougher comp, it is important for kids to know that I do try to see more than the scoreboard. I am sure I miss more than I see, but hopefully I am picking up the most important information. I have seen how much this kid shows up at practice, how hard he tries to play even when things are not going well, and how much he wants to his coach and his teammates. I’ve put this boy who stood out in a spot to straddle both teams so he can continue to work hard without so much pressure. He’ll play with one group for most of the season, and if the other group needs him, we’ll make it work. I’ve also decided to make captains for each team, and I may consider him for the role given his attendance and effort he showed to make the most of the first scrimmage. Communication, uniform issues, reports on effort, pre-game speeches – we’re going to put the kids to work (and they will immediately enlist their mothers). We do our best to be clear as individuals and as a team on simple team rules. Show up to practice. Nod your head. Do what coach asks. Even if you aren’t playing well, still hunt down the loose balls, help a player up, get a deflection, talk on D, run on and off the floor. Let your actions speak not only about your game, but more importantly, about who you are as a person.