We had our first early basketball practice this morning. By early, I mean we started at 7:25 AM or fifteen minutes earlier than usual. We will keep this schedule until the end of our season in late January except for days after games when we will being with the start of the school day at 7:40 AM. We have an interesting situation in that we practice every day of the school year, exempting finals and special occasions, but never longer than fifty minutes. It went well today- we did a lot of conditioning and let me quote Jenna here:
"I hate conditioning!!"
Let me quote an old coach here in response to the lovely Jenna:
"Conditioning that's fun isn't conditioning."
Girls are funny and maybe even more ritualistic than boys. We have a new player on our team this year. She's an 8th grader who came to our school last year but did not play. She's a good athlete and has picked up things quickly and there's quite a bit to learn if you've never played before, especially in the footwork department. I can't remember quite when but she started this little tradition with me at the end of practices. After we stack it up and recap and pray and yell 1-2-3 TOGETHER, she invariably asks me if I want to watch her shoot a three pointer. I always tell her if she misses, she has to kiss the floor and if she makes it, I'll kiss the floor. Today was no different. Yet as the other girls made their way to the locker room to change for the school day, I told the young lady I wanted to talk to her first. I mentioned how I had graded the Bible test she took on Friday and how she had written extraordinary answers to her essay questions. I told her how she has a chance to be a tremendous student if she keeps on the path she has begun. I commented with how pleased I was to have her on our team this year. As I finished up our 45 second, one sided conversation, I asked her, "Ready to shoot?" Bafflingly, to me, she responded,
"I can't shoot now."
Of course, I asked why not and this was her response:
"After you paid me such a nice compliment, I'm afraid you would be disappointed with me if I missed."
That really took me aback and I'm not really sure what I said next but I think it was along the lines of that's why I love coaching girls.
As the day has gone on, I outlined the scenario to several of my other classes, never using the girl's name or grade or any other identifying characteristic that might jeopardize her anonymity. Without fail, the females identified with her feelings about taking and possibly missing the three pointer. The guys? Are you kidding? They were as mystified as I was. The only thing I can figure out is that she links basketball and academics and my approval. To me and those of my gender, those are absolutely unrelated and separate entities. Not to the fairer of the human species; they are indelibly linked. I once had a very good player averaging about twenty points/ten rebounds per game. On the bus to an away contest, her boyfriend handed her a note and broke up with her. Her line for that game:
1 point 0 rebounds 5 fouls 5 minutes of playing time
She could not separate her romantic life from her athletic life and by the way, we lost to a team we had killed earlier. If it had been the boy that got dumped, he probably would have played better!
It seems inconceivable to me that anyone would come to the conclusion that my player did twelve hours ago. How can you link separate issues? And yet, I do it all the time. I struggle to think God still loves me when I sin. In spite of the good things I try to do and the knowledge that my goodness cannot save myself, I secretly wonder, briefly at least, if our Father is so fed up with me that he finds me totally worthless. Intellectually, I know that's not true but it bears a striking resemblance to that conversation I had this morning. I tie my feeble efforts with the amazing love the Lord had for me, to send his beloved Son to redeem the lost. So, I learned something from a thirteen year old girl on a basketball court and she didn't even realize she was teaching me an invaluable lesson. Once again, the player was the coach and I get a glimpse of why I am so blessed to work with these young ladies. Tomorrow, I hope she takes her shot again.
Applicable quote of the day:
''We're so preoccupied with protecting children from disappointment and discomfort that we're inadvertently excusing them from growing up.''
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org