Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Idiot in the Stands

When I was new at this whole coach's wife business, the brilliant comments from the geniuses in the bleachers really bothered me. But, it didn't take too long for me to realize that the average fans know so little about what is really happening on the field or court, that it was pointless to let anything they said have any effect on me. There's so much more going on than just first downs or made baskets or hits and runs. People should really save their voices for cheering for team. That's it.

Here's why I say that:

Tuesday night, the two 9/10 year old teams from Woodland played each other. Anytime classmates play against each other, it can be intense. From the tip, Devin's team was dominating the Orange, especially on defense. Our guys were on them like straight-jackets. Coach had worked hard on teaching man-to-man defensive techniques in the previous couple of practices. Our guys were clearly paying attention. The Orange couldn't even pass the ball cleanly, much less get a real shot off. Even with a nonfunctional scoreboard, there was no question about who was leading the game.

But, after halftime, our guys didn't seem to be playing as hard on defense. They weren't staying right on their man anymore. Now, Devin has yet to get a shot off in 2.25 seasons playing basketball, so the fact that he's tenacious on defense is a big deal to me. And, I cheer and get pretty vocal at games. I was encouraging our guys to toughen up on defense, to find their man, to get on them.

Little did I know that Coach had changed to a zone defense at halftime in order to give the other team a chance to shoot.....Oops. After the game, Devin says "I was getting a little confused when we changed defenses because Mommy kept yelling at me to get on my man." Double oops! Coach's response: "That's why you have to listen to your coach and not the idiots in the stands!" He winked at me as he said it.

Ladies and gentlemen...I give you..."Idiot". In my defense, how was I to know that he'd actually change defenses during a game with little kids? They've not practiced zone D at all that I know of. But then, what do I know? Which is exactly why I should've kept quiet. Lesson learned. Point taken. Shutting up now!

"Go Team!"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Coach's Kid

There is a special category of athlete. These kids have to work harder than anyone else; they have no choice. They are far more frequently criticized and far less often praised than other members of their team. They are often the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave. Even when they do go home, the lessons are not over. Fans expect more from them and are quick to point out any mistakes. Before these athletes graduate, even fans from other schools recognize who they are and reserve their cruelest and loudest heckling for them. The coach feels like he can ask more of them. People assume they are given special privileges instead of recognizing all of the extra hard work and effort they put in. These are Coaches' kids.

I've been around "the Coach's kids" since junior high, when I'd watch Coach Goodwin's elementary school-aged sons kick PAT's during  warm-ups warmups, throwing the ball around, or shooting hoops. But, they moved away before I could learn what lies in store for the coach's kids when they play varsity sports. At Woodland, I've gotten to see it up-close.

Our head coach's children are phenominal athletes (and people, might I add). The oldest, his son, excelled in football, basketball, and baseball, displaying one of the best work ethics I've ever witnessed in a kid his age. His daughters are equally athletic in their own right as basketball and volleyball players. Together, they own just about every record for girls basketball in the state. The older of the two currently holds the record for most career points, among others. They were as outstanding in the classroom as they were on the field/court. The two that have graduated already both went to college on scholarships. They have been named "MVP" in almost every tournament, named to every All-County, -Area, Region, -State team out there, and chosen as team captains by their peers. I could go on and on. But the point is, they didn't get that way by luck or chance or even birthright. Every win, award, accolade, recognition, or spot on a team came because they earned it.

Watching them grow up and play ball has been an honor and a learning experience. I've known that the day was soon approaching when mine would become "the coach's kids". It's arrived a little sooner than I expected. And, while it's only youth league basketball. Coach is still a Coach and always will be. He made an appearance at Tuesday night's game against the Woodland 9/10 Orange team. Let me set the stage for you:

Brock brings the ball down the floor and sets up at the top of the key, passes the ball to Devin at the wing and breaks for the basket. Devin makes a great pass and Brock puts it through for 2. Next possession, same situation. This time, though, the two defenders stay with Brock. Devin should have taken it to the hoop himself, but tries to pass it back to Brock. He turns it over. (That's okay. He's got to learn what to do when a play doesn't work exactly as you expect.) So his coach/dad tells him what to do in that situation as he comes back down to set up on offense. Brock passes to Devin, and this time he tries to dribble it in. But he's not open. He turns it over. Fourth trip down the court on offense and the other team has decided they are tired of letting the Blue team practice plays on them. The two defenders swarm Brock, who has picked up the dribble. He has no passing lane. He's looking around for help. His teammates are standing around, watching. Devin included. Coach yells at him to "go to the ball" and help. He's frozen. Coach calls timeout. And there he was - Coach Bailey.

I could have closed my eyes and thought he was getting on his varsity players from last year. He had that voice and that frustrated tone. But, my eyes weren't closed. Neither were anyone else's judging by they way they gawked wide-eyed at what was happening. He wasn't mean or wrong by any means, but he was loud. And Devin is so small. And many of the spectators did not know that he is the coach's son, so I'm sure they thought Coach was nuts! I just put my head in my hands. I started worrying about how Devin would react. Would he be embarrassed, mad, sad? Would he sulk or worse, decide he didn't want to play basketball anymore? Poor little Devin. (says his mom)

But, he's not Poor Little Devin. He's Coach Bailey's son. The next possession, Brock gets swarmed again and picks up his dribble. And what did Devin do? He came to the ball. Lesson learned. Woodland Blue went on to defeat Woodland Orange, earning their first win.

This won't be they last time Dev has to deal with a coach getting on him about something. He handled it like a champ. It gave me hope that he has some of what it takes to be a coach's son, because I know that an angry coach is far from the worst thing that lies ahead of him in his athletic career. I was proud of him. So was his coach. And his dad made sure he knew that after the game.

You may think it's unfair to even want to put a kid through that. But, no one helps a child, especially a boy, by babying him and pretending he does no wrong. Parents correct because we care. Coach has explained to Devin that he will always look for ways to help him improve. Not to do so would mean he'd given up any hope of him ever improving. And, it's not for Coach's benefit. It's for Devin's. He wants to be good at basketball. It is hard to watch your child have to deal with any tough situation. Being a coach's kid isn't easy, but I've seen how they turn out. And I wouldn't want less for my coach's kids.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coach's Wife becomes Player's Mom??!!

Number 9 had been looking forward to the first game for a couple of weeks now. I was glad to see him excited. Coach may not have shared his exact degree of enthusiasm, for a couple of reasons. First, 6 practices is hardly enough to get nine and ten-year-old boys game ready. Secondly, Coach has been working on teaching skills and fundamentals, and these don't necessarily translate into wins in games.

All the same, it was time to take the court. The little Bobcats fell short by 3 in the game at Wedowee, but from what I remember about the last time I saw Dev play in  a youth league game, it looked a lot like a win to me. Our guys looked like a basketball team. They were nervous and made some mistakes, but I was really impressed with their effort and discipline. They may or may not win games, but it is clear that they are learning. And, in case anyone forgets, that is why we play youth league.

I've been married to a coach for eleven years, so I consider myself something nearing an expert on how to handle that side of wins and losses. But, I have a lot to learn about being the mother of an athlete. Our boys have played sports their since age 6. This, though, is the first time I can tell that it really matters to Devin. He's not just out there for the fun of it. He's competitive. He gets that honestly. And, he's worked incredibly hard at practice. Winning matters to him.

As soon as the game was over, I could tell that Devin was disappointed. He had that look of dejection on his face. In the car, he didn't want to talk about the game. I was very proud of how he'd played. especially on defense. But, when he finally opened up at his dad's insistence, he said he was upset because he didn't get the ball any. His dad discussed with him why he didn't and the importance of being more aggressive and other basketball related things. At home, he was still sullen and quiet. Coach and I both kinda got on him about not getting so upset over it. Then, I thought about the ways we deal with losses on 'the big field' and asked Coach if that, not being upset about losing, was really our post-game policy. He pointed out that Devin could be mad, but he had to talk to him. They needed to discuss the games and practices right after and move on. I realized that I needed to get out of the way.

I've often wondered how Coach would handle the distinction between the father-son and the coach-player relationships. I trust that he can figure all that out. Devin is learning how to be part of a team and deal with the disappointments that are sometimes a part of it. He'll find his own way for handling it. I've got to figure out how to be the mother of an athlete. Mine my be the most challenging task of them all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Somebody's Learning Something

Rec League Sports. That's a whole world unto itself, isn't it?

Youth sports is a great opportunity for kids to get together and have a good time while being introduced to the fundamentals of a sport and sportsmanship. The purpose of youth sports should be for children to learn both to love the games and a little something about the sport itself. Fun, people! It's supposed to be fun!

And, so far, the boys are having fun with basketball this year. This is Jaxon's first year to play. And, let me tell you something. There's nothing like watching Kindergartners play basketball. Jax's is enjoying it and learning a lot. As am I!
Lesson one:
Teach kindergartners how to pass the ball before you try to scrimmage! Jax got a ball in the face in order to teach that one!

Lesson two:
Be careful at sign ups when deciding what size jersey to order. Youth mediums are LONG!

Lesson three:
Play offense on one end, defense on the other. They only get half a court to practice on, so the kids were kind of lost at the first game.

The team played its first game Saturday. They lost 12-10, but they did great considering they've had three practices. Jax was lost at first, but he did get aggressive and come down with a big rebound. He snatched the ball like a champ and then put it right back up. I'm proud of his willingness to shoot the ball, but next time maybe he'll wait until he's under his own goal! He said he had fun, so that's a win in my book! Great game #6!