Friday, January 27, 2012

Final Chapter

We played our final basketball game this afternoon and I can safely say I've never had a season quite like this . We did not win a game this year but it was a successful season. Our kids were basically sixth graders playing against eighth graders and it showed. But the team that beat us by forty points in December beat us by only twenty-one today. Katy Shirley and I were honored to coach this group of young ladies. This entry from February 6, 2007 is about another end of the season..

We were the Picture of the Day on the school website this afternoon. By we, I mean my Westbury Christian School junior high girls' basketball team. This morning, we presented a trophy in middle school chapel to Greg Glenn, our WCS Athletic Director. Last month, the Lady Wildcats claimed the runner-up trophy at the St. Francis Episcopal Tournament, bringing home the second place hardware which we handed over for display. The girls were proud of themselves and they should be. Due to various circumstances, we concluded our season two weeks ago with only seven players, down from the fourteen listed on the roster. Academics played havoc with our chances but I think we learned from the journey. A number of girls who played little early on were starters as the season wound down, gaining invaluable experience. The young ladies who struggled in the classroom and were required to sit, either by the school standards or their folks' criteria, hopefully also gleaned some insight from their enforced idleness. Since we have a practice period built into our schedule, we are already preparing for next year. The sixth graders are now seventh graders in my eyes and the seventh have been elevated to eighth. The next time the eighth graders play in a game, they will be in high school and in another world. You rebuild every year in middle school. I like it that way.

This was a special group, starting with parents. For the last game, one mother made large signs for the gym wall. The Friday after our last contest, some of the team moms provided a wonderful breakfast for us, complete with decorations. The kids were a joy as well. The eighth graders had to ride to the away games in my Toyota with me so Ayramis, Deandra, Jeannett, and Tynae spent hours with their favorite coach in transportation mode. They sang, they laughed, they whispered, they were silly....and I loved it. Tynae was the only returning player who had ever stepped foot on the floor for us before this season and that for only fifteen minutes of game time. On the court, there were highlights and not so lofty moments. In one game, we held our opponents to two points in the last two-plus quarters...and lost. Right before Christmas, we beat a team that had trounced us by thirty points only weeks before. But the best times come in the practices, when it was just us. That's when the memories are made. I have four more months with this bunch of kids, before I round up the practice gear and take the eighth graders to our traditional end of the year lunch at Chili's. I pray for each of these kids every morning before school. The attachment a coach can have with a group of kids is amazing. Paul told the brothers and sisters in Colosse that, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you." (Colossians 1:3) Although every coach has a frustration level, and I certainly have mine, it is an honor when a child addresses you as Coach. The title sticks with you as do the remembrances. My lasting memory of Tynae, who made it through three years of my whistle blowing, came in the last quarter of her last game. We were down by more than ten points with scarcely a minute on the clock. A girl on the other team stole the ball and was headed for an uncontested layup. By all rights, the outcome of the game was long decided. It didn't matter. Tynae, who played practically every minute of every game, chased the girl down from thirty feet behind and knocked the ball out of her hands, saving two points. It was one of the greatest plays I have seen but not many people really understood the importance of what she did. Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:7, described it this way:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." That's what Tynae did in her final act as a Lady Wildcat- she overcame exhaustion and prevented two points, honoring her teammates and me with her effort until the very end. Most kids would have emotionally cashed it in by that point. Some, like Tynae, never quit. That's why we coach. That's why there's next year.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The best thing about sports is the sense of community and shared emotions it can create."
Bob Costas

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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