In our Spring first period basketball practices, we do a variety of competitions every day. One thing that I've found over the years is that the girls in my program tend not to be the greatest competitors- they don't really know how to look for ways to win. I design what we do each morning based on offensive skills- it's much easier and less time consuming at this age to develop good defensive players, especially if the kids are good athletes. One thing we do each month after our schedule of games is completed is a free throw ladder. Each girl shoots sets of ten free throws until they accumulate 100 attempts and we post the percentages on the locker room door in descending order. I give a prize- an extra Capri Sun- each month to the player with the most % improvement. We began the April ladder yesterday, a day early, because of some conflict issues coming up- Picture day, academic contests, etc. I threw out another incentive; an extra Capri Sun day for all if we have five players who improve over March. (In case you are a new reader, we share Capri Suns at the end of practice every Friday morning.) Well, we finished today and had an average of 37.1% for the twelve kids. Three players- Natalia, Jenna, Madison, all 8th graders- shot 50% or better and we went down to a low of 19%. If you know basketball, you can see we have unlimited potential for improvement. That's the value of the off season.
After shooting and charting for the first half of the period on Monday, I divided the kids up into three teams of four and played what we call the Free Throw Game. It's four on four with one team out. If you score, you stay. If you get scored on, you're out and the team underneath the basket comes in. Everyone time the ball changes hands within a possession, it has to come to me at the top of the key where I act as a passer and referee. Here's the catch in keeping score; if your team scores a basket, you go to the free throw line and each team member in turn shoots a free throw in a set order until somebody misses. We have only played twice but it's our current favorite thing to do in practice.
Later in my 8th grade Bible class which included three of my players, we discussed what I think is an interesting phenomenon. When we shoot and chart ourselves with only being accountable to the individual, we shoot, as I mentioned, at a 37% clip. And yet when we play the Free Throw Game where each girl on a team shoots an equal number of shots, our percentage goes up to approximately 65%. I ventured, and the kids agreed, that we shoot better when the welfare of others, our three teammates in this instance, is riding on our individual success. We do most of our pre-season conditioning running relays which is an idea I picked up from an article that said American swimmers go faster in relays than individual races due to the reliance factor. You push yourself for your teammates. In that light, it only makes sense why the Lord put us in families biologically and in the church spiritually- we need to know others depend on us. Today, in that same class, we talked about the Lord's Prayer and noted there are no first person singular pronouns anywhere to be found in its petition to God:
Give us this day our daily bread and Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
No I, me, or my as the Savior taught His disciples, and us by inference, how to talk to the Father. We were not created to be lone wolves either socially or in matters of righteousness. And maybe that's why the Lord placed us on basketball teams, too.
Applicable quote of the day:
There are really only two plays: Romeo And Juliet and put the ball in the basket.