I've coached our boys through many sports seasons. One thing I'd never had the opportunity to do, though, was coach them both on the same team. That opportunity finally presented itself this winter when I coached their YMCA basketball team. What a blessing it turned out to be.
Ian was the youngest guy on our team. In many cases two years younger. It was fun watching him take that struggle on, or, during some practices and games, watching the struggle take him on. Ian is our determined guy. So what you might have on him in age and shooting and dribbling, he's going to try to overshadow with grit. Since many days grit doesn't result in hoops or behind the back passes, Ian spent a lot of time being frustrated. But from a coaching point of view - and a dad's - it's plain to see spending so much time trying to keep up with the big boys turned Ian into a much bigger basketball boy than he was when our season started two months ago.
That's why my highlight of the season was easily a couple of games ago when Ian scored his first and only basket of the season. To make it more special, the shot came after a pass from his brother, Elliott. Ian was about 8 feet from the basket, and as soon as he received Elliott's pass he turned and launched the ball toward the hoop. As they say in the business - nothing but net. Ian's face broke into a proud smile. I've seen less facial celebration on guys who hit one of those buzzer beaters during March Madness. As he ran down the court to take his position on defense his hands stayed clinched together. All that grit balled up in two tiny fists. For at least an instant, he wasn't playing keep up with the big boys. He was one.
I was equally proud of Elliott. I'm not sure that Elliott ever outwardly expresses the same determination Ian does. That doesn't mean it isn't there, though. Elliott's determination shows up in the hours he routinely stays out in the driveway practicing mundane drills instead of rehearsing the more dramatic aspects of the game, like making shots banked off the roof of the Chevy truck parked in the driveway or one armed heaves from the neighbors yard across the street. Through Elliott you get reminded of what remains true even in adulthood: when you no longer have time to consider your next move, instinctively, you'll most likely deliver what you've practiced hardest.
I enjoy coaching this age group. Winning means just enough to them to make it interesting, but little enough that it doesn't rob them of the opportunity to have fun without it. And many games this season we were forced to have fun without it. But each kid got better, which is always my goal with the young guys. Improve on a few skills, take another step from young boy toward quality young man.
I was blessed to partner with another father who was instrumental in helping the boys improve in both areas. Coach Chris is a good man, a dedicated dad, and a new friend I'm grateful for. The reality about this age group is the players are still young boys. No matter how much structure and coaching experience you bring to the table, chaos is always lurking. In those moments, you find strength in numbers. Thank you Coach Chris for improving our odds buddy.
Next up, a little spring football and swim team training. Both indications warm weather is on the way.