Our basketball season ended on Tuesday. We won our last game, 33-24, over a home school team that wasn't bad. All the kids logged significant minutes as we played one of our better games of the 2010-2011 campaign. We concluded the year with a 12-10 record, much better than the 4-5 wins I had mentally predicted. Middle school schedules are both compact and scattered. One weekend, we played four games in twenty-four hours and then we went twenty-five days without playing at all. We made a bunch of memories along the way. Our assistant coach, Katy Shirley, was the object of much flirting from referees and even coaches, one of whom wanted to set her up with his son. We rejoiced each time a girl with limited playing time scored or sometimes, even came close to scoring. Late in the season, we went on a three game winning streak when our middle school principal, Casey Farris, played The Gap Band's You Dropped A Bomb On Me during timeouts. And as always happens, the end came suddenly. When the final horn for the season sounded, we lined up for the traditional hand shakes with our opponents. And as we always do, we talked for a few moments behind the bench. I mentioned uniform turn in- due Monday, laundered, and in a plastic bag with your name written on it. But right before we prayed, the oddest thing happened; the Lady Wildcats had an outbreak of tears. I've coached girls a long time but this caught me off guard. It wasn't only one or two girls and it wasn't only the eighth graders whose next game will be in high school. It was both a spontaneous and contagious outpouring. We made it through the AMEN and I sent them home.
What was interesting to me about the crying is that we aren't finished as a team. We have first period practice every day of the school year so we will still be together as a team seventy more times. The next morning, we met in my classroom, voting on awards and writing thank-you notes to folks who helped us. The subject turned to the post-game emotion. I asked what caused the waterworks. Taylor-post (read Monday's entry, In Name Only, to understand Taylor's quirky name) responded,
"Coach, you told us you loved us."
Jada chimed in with,
"And that it was an honor for you to coach us."
That, my friends, is coaching middle school girls' basketball in a nutshell. Even though I have often expressed those sentiments before, the timing was just right for a tearful reaction. I don't want you think it was all peaches and cream with this group. We had our issues- being on time, grades, silliness, etc.- but it comes down to the relationships you develop and the bonds I made with less than a dozen newly and near teens that made this a special year for me. It reinforced with me the power of words on hearts, especially when the hearts are wide open. In Jesus' Parable of the Talents, the four soils where the seed landed represent the types of hearts of those listening. The path, thorns, and rocky soil allowed no long term growth of the seed, the Word of God. But as for the good soil, it turned into a bumper crop of righteousness. That's how I see these girls- Good Soil. They'll make mistakes and have their hearts broken but they can do wonderful things in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Scriptures tell us the good soil produced 100-60-30 times what was sown; these girls will put up some amazing numbers of their own. On Tuesday, they watered the soil with the most precious type of irrigation ever devised, their own tears. That's why I'm so blessed that these kids call me Coach.
Applicable quote of the day:
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.”
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org