I get asked to be a part of a lot of things. My inclination used to be to say yes to all of them. Then I ended up with a schedule that left me halfheartedly servicing a bunch of yeses and very little time and passion tending to the things that mean the most to me. So I started saying no. And life got better.
After coaching both of our boys' football teams last fall, I said no to coaching basketball this winter. I love coaching. I love being around the kids - both mine and yours - but sometimes you just know when you need a breather. So I said no.
Then came the call. The all too common call: Keith, we don't have enough coaches.
Let me pause to editorialize for a minute. In Elliott's age group there were over 50 kids. When the call came to ask me to coach there were 4 coaches committed for the 6 teams. Four. And the four of them were the same folks who'd coached year after year after year for all the years we've been a part of the league. I don't know why that is. Plenty of good reasons, I'm sure. But my guess is while I'm working on saying no at least a few folks might work on saying yes? Maybe there's a comfort zone issue, but our kids need us outside our comfort zone not in it. And if it's an "I don't know enough about basketball deal" - you're talking to the wrong guy. Thank God for YouTube!!
So I said yes. Mainly after our dear friend and fellow coach Mary Chris Luck agreed to share the responsibilities with me. She's awesome with the kids and shares my competitive fire.
At the beginning of the year we started with one simple philosophy. Guys, we're going to outwork everybody we play. I don't know if we'll beat any of them, but we're going to outwork them. That means we're going to get more steals and rebounds than everyone else. And because we're going to get more steals and rebounds, we're going to take more shots than everyone else. I don't care if you make them, just shoot them. On the days more of those shots go in than others, we're going to win. It's that simple boys.
Like I suggested above. When it comes to basketball I'm not smart enough to out-strategize anyone. I'm also a believer at this young age of teaching the boys things that are useful in all sports and all areas of life. Hard work and hustle aren't skills, they are attitudes. Attitudes that say you might beat me today, but it won't be because you worked harder than me.
I'm not sure I've ever had a team cling to that attitude better than this group of kids. Because they did, we won a bunch of games. We also lost some.
Our season closed last Saturday against one of the better teams in the league. The game came down to the final possession. I called a time-out. One of the boys in the huddle looked at me and said, "my heart is racing." I thought, be thankful you're not 53, son. I'm living on the edge of cardiac arrest right now. But I loved that. 10 and 11 year old boys with racing hearts. Sitting on the outer edges of hard work and hustle and on the verge of feeling it translate into a victory.
When they came running off the court with their arms raised, fist bumping and chest bumping each other, I knew "yes" is still the right answer from time to time. Especially when it comes to spending time with kids. They keep me young. They keep my heart racing. They keep me reminded that in a society that places a lot of emphasis on education and learning, there's still a lot of value in hard work and hustle.
Coach Mary Chris told the boys after the game that even if we'd lost that still would have been a great game and we'd have been proud of them. That is the absolute truth. Win or lose, I think we'd both be happy to hang with these hard working guys any day of the week.
OK, so maybe I do have some skills!!