Coach (Of The Year) Bob
Well all my hard work and years of service have finally paid off. Yes, my coaching genius was finally recognized when I was named the Coach of the Year this past Saturday.
Or something like that.
I've written about coaching youth sports before, but this is the first time I ever won an award because of it. Of course, "won" is kind of a strong word in this case. It's more like a lifetime achievement award, so to speak.
I have been coaching in my local community basketball league, Souderton / Harlesyville Youth Basketball Association (SHYBA) for the last seven years for my son's teams and the last five for my daughter's teams. That means I've made a lot of friends among the other coaches. And that's how you win such an award.
My team didn't win the Championship this year. Heck we didn't even win a playoff game for various reasons (obviously unrelated to my superior coaching techniques), but our team sure did have a great season.
I was lucky enough to have a great group of players, ranging in age from 11 to 13 years old. If you don't have kids, let me tell you, that makes for a huge disparity in height and skill level. And that was the biggest challenge this season. My assistant coach, Dan, and I realized at our very first practice that we had some talent on the team and we went about trying to make the most of it. As I said, it didn't lead to a championship for our girls, but it did lead to a fun season.
In the end, that's what most of these girls are interested in; having fun. As I always say to any team that I coach, my only goals are to teach them the game so that they can become better players and to make sure they have fun doing it. Of course, I also tell that winning is more fun than losing, but you simply can't let that be your only focus when you're coaching kids.
Anybody who has read my writing knows me to be an ornery, sarcastic S.O.B. But you would be surprised to find out that I am a completely different person, when it comes to youth sports, than I am with professional sports. I once even had a fellow coach ask me if I ever get angry, because I'm normally so calm around the kids. Anybody who has ever met me or read my writing would have had a good laugh at that one. Professional athletes get paid millions to play a sport, so when they screw up or, worse, don't even try; I'm going to rip them. When you're dealing with kids, the wins and losses become almost secondary.
Like, I said, my team didn't win the championship this year, but we had a great year. I think I'm proudest of the fact that we made these girls into better players and even helped them like the sport of basketball a bit more. We had girls of varying talent and specific skills. Some girls were better at ball handling, some better at shooting, or rebounding. Some were great defenders or passers. It's a coach's job to maximize a player's strengths, while improving the weaker parts of their game to make them a better overall player. I think Coach Dan and I did that by becoming a good team ourselves.
We had one girl, in particular, that didn't even really want to play basketball at the beginning of the season. She wasn't a bad player, she just didn't really care. In the beginning of the season, she would mostly just stand around and say she didn't know what to do. As we continually explained to her what she needed to do in each circumstance during the games, she gradually got more into the games. I figured out that the best way to keep her interested was to use her best asset. OK, maybe her second best asset, since her ability to keep me entertained with her constant questions and comments really is her dominant personality trait. Anyway, I decided to use her quickness as a defensive tool for our team. That got her more into the game and gave the coaches and her teammates endless reasons to praise her play. With that, her confidence and her love of the game grew.
This player is young and small, so we spent most of the season hoping we would be able to get her a basket to reward all of her hard work on the defensive end. She started off the year not going after the ball and when she got it, she simply stood there until the other team grabbed it from her. Then, proving that hard work and confidence pays off, she scored herself. In our second to last game, she got a pass in the corner, dribbled along the baseline and put up a 7-footer that went right in the basket. Her teammates and the fans went wild; all knowing it was her first basket. Yours truly couldn't contain his excitement either. I had to explain to the opposing coach that I wasn't rubbing it in with my overzealous reaction to a simple basket in a game we were winning. When I explained that it was her first basket, I got a big smile out him.
If you coach youth sports, there are always kids on your team that might not be as talented as others on your roster. So when those kids excel, it makes you feel good about what you're doing. You want to win games, but not at the expense of ignoring your responsibility to coach every single player on that team. This moment was a win for the player, her teammates, and this coach.
When the league Commissioner presented me with the award on the court after the championship game, he read a few quotes he got from the girls on my team. I don't remember the exact quotes, but I do know that the general theme was that I made it fun for them. Hey, if we couldn't win the championship at least it's good to know they had fun learning and playing the game of basketball this season. That means they'll continue to play and continue to get better. And maybe they'll even win that championship one season.
I don't know why the other coaches voted for me. Maybe it was because I've been coaching for a while and they know me. Maybe they were dazzled by my vast basketball knowledge and innovative coaching style (insert belly-laugh here). Maybe all the other coaches at this level had already won the award in previous years, so they figured they would let me have one as well. Who knows. I just know that I now have this cool award at my desk and every time I look at it, I'll know I made a difference. To me that's what coaching is all about.