Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Zombies And Basketball

The longer I coach, the more I change how I teach the game of basketball to middle school girls. As a high school coach, I started out preaching defense and that is an integral part of the game and incredibly important as you scale the round ball mountain. We talk a great deal about the most important thing- THE BALL- and who possesses it and how we should treasure it. I've come to the understanding that you can take good athletes and make them into good defensive players in a short period BUT it takes years to develop offensive skills and many kids won't put in that much time. So in middle school with many kids who've never stepped on a basketball court, we focus most of our time on offensive fundamentals. I also discount the old a chain is only as strong as its weakest link proverb that coaches have been quoting from at least the time of Moses. (Speaking of coaches, yesterday would have been the 99th birthday for legendary John Wooden!) All team members on any level cover a wide strata of abilities and let me assure that a middle school team with even two or three good players can be dominant. I could go on but this is supposed to be a devotional blog, not a basketball clearinghouse!

You might wonder why at the top of this page is a picture of an obviously 1960s era rock band. If you hadn't guessed from the title, it's The Zombies. From 1962-1968, the British group enjoyed popularity with songs like Tell Her No and Time Of The Season. (Great trivia question- how many times is no repeated in Tell Her No? Answer- 65!) It's like this. The biggest hit ever from The Zombies as a song called She's Not There and is kind of the theme of what I preach to my players this year. We are really big into everybody matters equally in our culture but I am challenging that with this bunch. You see, we only have seven kids on our squad this season- SEVEN. On top of that, six of the seven are seventh graders and we play a tough eighth grade schedule. On top of that, only two of these kids have ever played before and only one has played much. I called them The Magnificent Seven..... but they had no clue to what I was talking about. But back to The Zombies and their song. When we are missing someone from practice, I ask the girls, "Who is the most important person on our team?'' It might be Ivana or Kayla or Caprice but it's always the absent young lady. If my assistant, Kaitlyn Ballard, has been held up- she's our Upper School Guidance Counselor- the answer becomes Coach Ballard. I'm not trying to make them feel guilty- I'm trying to get them to understand their value to the group. You may not believe this but practice schedules implode with just one absence when your total is seven. It's difficult to add new drills or concepts or offensive/defensive sets with kids missing, especially new ones. And though we have had some rough spots so far in this preseason, I am proud of this- we very rarely have kids miss. Unless you have coached, that might not mean a great deal but believe me, it's huge. We haven't dealt with in-season injury or illness or grade issues, but when and if the problems arise, we'll deal with them: one at a time, of course.

There  is always a balance between the needs of the group and the needs of the individual. It's true whether in business or family or school or basketball or marriage. And church. Jesus died for us as a group and for you and me individually. Making ourselves available for the good of the whole doesn't diminish my unique nature- I think it cements it. Paul speaks of both individual rights and individual responsibility to our brothers and sisters. You can't have a group without a number of solitary members joined to a common cause. (I ask my students what I would be without them. The answer? UNEMPLOYED!) But a loner without a connection to a family or business or team or church can die of malnourishment so it's a mutually beneficial relationship. Tomorrow morning at practice, I won't have to check a roll-book to know if someone is missing: I'm not mathematical BUT I can count to seven. More importantly this year, I have to count on seven.

*To listen to She's Not There, copy and paste the link below:

Applicable quote of the day:
"Wrestling is a team sport and an individual sport all rolled into one."
William Baldwin

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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