This entry, from December 6, 2012, is why most of us coach. I missed practice this morning. I had a seven AM dental appointment in downtown Houston, which is another story. My middle school team works out first period each day and Ben Johnson, one of my former students and players in Tennessee, filled in for me. By all the kids' accounts, they had fun and accomplished a great deal, primarily in shooting. (I was told that Sydney forgot to mention me during the team prayer, an oversight which hurts but since she's eleven, I can overlook it!) But I really missed the girls. Yesterday we had the best practice of the year, maybe in several years, and the coach in me wanted to try to duplicate the experience as soon as possible.
Over the years, I've coached many teams, mostly high school and predominantly basketball, but this group is one of my two or three favorites. There are several reasons. One is that last year, we lost every game and some by astronomical scores; 62-1, 60-2, 46-0. There were reasons, primarily that most of the girls were sixth graders playing against eighth grade teams and almost none of the girls had ever played before. This year, we are 7-3 and the kids believe we can win although we only talk in terms of improving. We say our opponent in every game is ourselves and the other team that shows up is................ (fill in the blank) We celebrate Capri Sun Fridays and the Smurfs and stacking it up when we pray. We have fun on our carpool road trips. The seventh and eighth graders ride with one of the moms and the sixth graders ride with me. I laugh and laugh and laugh just listening to them being sixth graders and singing every Christmas song on the radio. During the games, the girls cheer for each other with no jealousy. They are respectful to the referees and to the young ladies from the opposing schools and they play hard. There's just so much for me to like.
But when I try to dissect exactly why I love this team so much, it comes down to this- they love each other. Having sixth and seventh and eight graders on the same team can lead to stratification by age but this group is immune; the older girls look out for and almost are protective of the younger ones which is how a family is supposed to work. Jesus told His apostles that the identifying mark of the believer would be love. His teaching carries over into the basketball arena on occasion. Last weekend, we won the consolation bracket of a tournament at a nearby private school. My players were stunned when we received a trophy- they all wanted to hold it and take pictures. It wasn't much as trophies go- it probably cost ten dollars and the sporting goods company inadvertently put the year as 1220 instead of 2012, a minor detail. But, it might as well have been the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl for all we cared. And the all-tournament team medals hanging around Roseline's and Mallory's neck might as well have been Olympic gold. In the end, though, the real winner this year is me. In the big time sports world, professional franchises and huge universities compete for what the secular world covets, titles. But as in many things in the world today, their emphasis is misplaced. You see, I have achieved greatest athletic title of all; these ten girls call me 'Coach.'
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