Posted tagged ‘middle school basketball’

What Any Coach Would Like To Hear At The end Of The Season

February 15, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     February 15, 2020

           

A good friend of mine, Leo Swiontek, who I’ve known ever since he was my son’s high school JV basketball coach twenty years ago, is coming towards the finish line of his basketball season. He is the varsity boy’s coach at The Classical Academy on the north side of Colorado Springs.

Leo is an incredible coach. He is high energy, enthusiastic, cares about his players, and has taught me a lot. Even with a 14-5 win/loss record this year, following a 17-7 record last year, you can see the weariness in him. High school basketball is almost a year-round sport, taking breaks for April and July, but otherwise filling up the schedule with camps, open gyms, weekend tournaments, and individual evaluations. 

When Leo gets finished in as little as two weeks or as much as four, he will look back at what was and know that he put everything into it. What I hope he hears from his parents and players is how he impacted them and guided them.

I recently completed my middle school girl’s basketball season, a quick two month-long experience from beginning to end, and I received a letter from a grandparent of one of my players. It was like ointment for a tired body. I carry it in my backpack in the envelope it arrived in. It contains words that any coach hopes to hear at the end of a season.

I’d like to share just some parts of it.

“I’m the proud grandparent of one of your players and have had the privilege of watching her play basketball for many years. Her Grandpa and I watched her play under your guidance and I think your coaching skills are the best…I didn’t hear you raise your voice a single time at any of the players or the referees. You handled everything with such professionalism. All the girls played, regardless of their skill level, and I heard you when you had your chats with them. I was impressed with how you handled everything. Her team is so lucky to have had you as their coach!”

Those words, not forced but volunteered, took me by surprise. As a coach, you hope you’re making a difference, not only in the lives of your players but also in the impression you’re communicating to their parents…and grandparents. 

I’m not a hall of fame coach. I’m just a coach who’s been given the opportunity to use a game to teach his players about life. 

I’ll see Coach Swiontek this morning and I’ll applaud his example. I’ll tell him what a great job he has done and is doing, and I’ll look into his tired eyes and remind him that the prize is in sight. He deserves it!

In Appreciation of Great Parents of Young Athletes

November 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           November 12, 2018

                              

One of the main reasons I decided to stop officiating basketball after the 2017 season and 16 years of wearing the stripes was out-of-control parents. Many of them have added to their resume’ and are now not just “helicopter parents”, but also “helicopter fans”!

Irrational and belligerent, abusive and hostile, they bring a dark side to youth athletics. When their son or daughter has an official make a marginal call that goes against their child you would think that the kid just got a reject letter from Harvard!

BUT there are “the others”! That is, there are the parents who are awesome and supportive; the parents who understand that the world does not turn on the basis of a roundball’s rotation; the parents who allow their son or daughter to experience failure and also success and don’t feel like they need to pave the path that only leads to victory.

Parental guidance and encouragement are the vital elements for a kid growing up and trying to figure out life, but they are elements that are too often missing. They are elements that many parents have pushed to the side in favor of outraged entitlement and having a messed-up view of what is really important in life.

The parents of my 8th Grade boys basketball team this year were awesome, and here’s why!

They let the coach coach! Their analysis and evaluation of the game and their son’s play didn’t happen until after the game, if at all! Never once did I have a parent shout instructions to their son from the bleachers. They applauded and encouraged, grimaced and smiled. I’ve heard too many horror stories of coaches being hounded and ridiculed by parents. My parents modeled how things should be!

They understood that we coach student athletes, not athletes who also happen to be students! None of my players had to sit out a week of games because they were academically in trouble. Their son’s grade point average is much more important than his scoring average or how many rebounds he gets in a game.

They modeled maturity! I’ve seen my share of parents who have been asked to leave gymnasiums because of their behavior. Last year the mom of a player from the team we were playing that day sat in the row behind our team bench…in our gym! Her voice was the loudest voice in the gym. If it was Cameron Indoor at Duke and the Blue Demons were playing North Carolina I could understand it, but this was a 7th Grade boys game. I had our security person ask her to move at halftime. She was not pleased! There were plenty of seats behind her team’s bench. The coach, a friend of mine, said to me after the game, “Great! You moved her down behind my bench and then I had to hear her!”

Some parents just don’t get it! And then you see their son or daughter turning into mom or dad!

Here’s the harsh truth! Officials and referees are hanging up their whistles because of parents! And coaches are calling it quits because of parents! 

My parents this year were awesome and that’s why I’ll be back for my 19th season next year…and consider myself blessed to be able to do it!

Riding A Bus With 7th Grade Boys

November 1, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         October 31, 2016

                            

During the course of this school year I will have coached three middle school athletic teams- a 7th Grade football team and two 8th Grade basketball teams. Some who may be reading this might be thinking I’m crazy, but my response is…what a hoot! I receive so much writing material from coaching middle school kids. They never cease to amaze me…and, ironic as it may sound, teach me!

Last week our 7th and 8th Grade basketball teams had about a 30 minute bus ride to an away game. The 8th Grade boys take control over the back few rows of the bus. It is their domain, their clubhouse! There is an invisible “Do Not Enter!” sign at about Row 10. The 7th Grade boys therefore take up residence in the front and middle sections, a safe two seats back from the coach, but close enough for me to hear their conversation.

I learned things!

First of all, 7th Grade boys jump from topic to topic like a game piece in a checker’s match. Here’s a snippet (Names have been changed):

“I hate math!

“Mr. _________ is mean!”

“He sends people to the office for just breathing!”

“Dude, I got a whiff of Emily Johnson breath after lunch. I got ill!”

“What did she have for lunch?”

“I think those garlic bread sticks and crap!”

“Dude, she said hi to me in the cafeteria and it was like her butt was saying hello!” (Chuckling and laughter. Butt and farting language is considered cool and 7th Grade boys feel obligated to laugh even if they don’t think it is that funny!)

“Dude, I can not eat the food they serve in the cafeteria!”

“I can’t wait for the new Chick-fil-a to open.”

“It won’t make any difference to us! We can’t leave school for lunch until we’re like 18!”

“I can’t wait until I’m 18 to have different food for lunch!”

“Dude, suck it up!”

“I’m getting a new puupy!”

“Sweet!”

“Dude, you’ll have to pick up all the poop!”

Laughter and chuckling!

With that conversation in mind, the second thing I learned is that 7th graders begin sentences with “Dude!” if they are about to make a statement that requires a hearing. “Dude” is the emphasizer! It signals to the gathered cluster that what the boy is about to say is important to listen to…even if it isn’t!

“Dude, did you hear about Amy doing a face plant coming down the stairs today?”

“Dude, that was awesome!”

“Dude!”

“Dude!”

Sentiment is not a big thing with 7th Grade boys, especially if it is related to klutziness or the unexpected.

The third thing I learned is that 7th Grade boys have lost all understanding of “inside voice, outside voice.” You know what I’m talking about? Volume control! The conversation will be going along in a normal way and someone will erupt like a Hawaiian volcano in jet engine level volume. They have no concept of how their voices can enter the radar screen of annoying.

And yet their youthfulness is their gift, their stress reliever. I’m sitting in row two thinking about the game that is looming on the horizon, getting my mind right, thinking about player rotations and offensive principles…and they are thinking about how does the chocolate chewy part get  inside a grape-flavored Tootsie Roll Pop?

There’s something…pure and simple about that, something that I probably need to lean towards.

Dude!