Helpless on the Sidelines

Posted: September 25, 2012 in Sports

I got a chance to coach my first game in our summer rec league last month and now have true sympathy for game coaches at every level.  I understand why I’ve heard my coaches talk about how they would love to be able to “put that jersey back on” when we aren’t playing well.

After breaking my right wrist in a high school summer league game a couple of weeks earlier, I found myself on the sidelines as a spectator, which, needless to say, sucked. Our coach (my Dad, by the way) asked if I wanted to take over on the bench.  I said sure. I love DASH (Downingtown Area Summer Hoops), our regional outdoor, under-the-lights league.   And, it had to be less boring than watching, right?

I was still drilling and working on my game, but I couldn’t get any live competition. I figured the closest I’d get to playing is coaching, so why not? I took on full responsibility for The Green Machine, a group of mostly inexperienced (but fun-loving), white kids who were not going to be dunking in the pre-game layup lines.

MESSAGE TO ALL OF MY COACHES OVER THE YEARS:

•           Sorry I didn’t box out more

•           Sorry I didn’t hustle back on defense every single time

•           Sorry I didn’t realize how helpless you must have felt when things weren’t going great on the court

At the beginning of the game, I tried to share some of my basketball expertise with the guys by shaping up a relevant game plan highlighting boxing out, getting back on defense, and creating holes in the zone by making the defense work.  Everyone seemed to understand what I was saying in the huddle. It wasn’t until the game started that I realized that nods in the huddle don’t always translate into execution on the court.

I don’t think we got one rebound in the first seven minutes of the game. Granted, we were outmatched height-wise, especially by a 6-6 athlete who DID dunk during layup lines.    Still, I still don’t think any team should go seven minutes without a rebound! I was obviously aggravated, but I didn’t want to be “that guy” who takes coaching too seriously.  So, I composed myself and tried to put my basketball advice into simpler terms. We started playing pretty well for the rest of the first half, finishing down only six points at the half.

Then , it got a little out of hand when our opponents’ best player – who I’ve played against in  high school and  AAU – dunked three times in a row (once in traffic), giving his team the momentum. He must’ve scored 12 points in the first couple of minutes of the third quarter. Right away, we were in a huge hole and I could tell the guys just wanted to have some fun because this first-round playoff game was clearly going to be our season finale.  Given the situation, I just sat back and let them play transition ball while making sure that everyone got their minutes. I had some fun myself, begging  the refs, who were long-time family friends,  for phantom calls that no coach would ever get.

We ended up losing by about 30 but everyone had a good time and I had a great and memorable learning experience.

And that’s what basketball is all about, right?

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