[Continued from The Big Kid and Basketball Part V … The First Practice]
It is the following Wednesday and we have another practice. For the past 7 days I have thought non-stop about my humiliation. At work. In the car. At home. I have thought about how I screwed up. How I embarrassed my son.
So of course my face is paler (is that possible?), my belly is more bloated (perhaps 9 months pregnant?), the circles under my eyes are darker (you know that sexy black color you see on certain Harleys? Well, the black under my eyes was nothing like that).
So, here we go again…
“Come on dad…we are going to be late.”
It is 6:30pm.
“Let’s go dad!”
It takes 5 minutes to get there.
“Dad, where are you?”
“Come on…I don’t want to be late!”
One guess where I am … (Don’t tell Bill Russell that I didn’t even make it to the gym).
Eventually I make it to the car. My sweatpants are so tight that I feel like I am about to explode. Picture a man 5’ 11 ½” (nope…never made it to 6 feet), weighing 230 lbs, with a belly protruding way past his chest with not a six pack but rather a keg above his waist line feeling like the weight of the world is on his shoulders as he seeks to emulate the courage his son has shown since day one.
As we drive to the practice Tommy is talking about his jump shot, working on his dribble, how he wants to use my moves (my moves?), and how he can’t wait to get there.
I am thinking about…yup…my gut, twisting, turning, aching, and swelling.
We arrive at practice and I remember to take a big breath and walk into the gym.
Again, it is loud and bright and I see Coach Smith, Coach Wright, and Coach Sampras. I am here because? (Well, I am here for my son). But I mean really, how many coaches do you need for 12 boys playing recreation basketball?
Coach Smith blows his whistle, instructs the boys to each grab a basketball and then to form two lines, each at half court, one line facing one basketball hoop and the other facing the other basketball hoop. Ah, layup drill! I know this one. I can do this. But wait, I am not to get in a line. I am a coach, yes, one of four, but still a coach right? What is my role?
So, quietly I step off to the side and watch the boys, each one at a time, dribble to one hoop and take a layup and then grab their own rebound (ah yes, rebounding), get in the next line, and dribble to the other end and take another layup. Coach Smith is yelling words of encouragement. So is Coach Wright. Coach Sampras is quieter but definitely engaged. And here am I…just watching.
Oh wait, Tommy’s turn. Now this is why I am really here, right? To watch and support my son. He dribbles with his right hand to the first hoop. He throws it up. Off the backboard and … misses. He runs, he grabs his own rebound and he heads to the next line. Some of the boys are snickering at his miss. But most are too busy dribbling and getting ready for their next turn. Tommy is unfazed. My son is … smiling. He had a “fail” (as the kids would say) … and he is unfazed.
I have so much to learn from my son.
Tommy’s next turn. He dribbles with his right hand, drives to the hoop, throws the ball up and IT’S GOOD! Yeah!! (I am jumping on the inside and smiling on the outside.) Tommy grabs the ball after it passes through the netting and heads to the next line. The boys who made fun of him for missing the first time don’t appear to have noticed that he got it in this time. BUT I NOTICED. “Great shot T!”
This goes on for another 5 – 10 – 15 hours … um … I mean minutes.
Coach Smith eventually brings the boys to half court and discusses … actually I have no idea what he discusses. Where is the bathroom?
Okay I am back.
Coach Smith has the boys lined up working on chest passes and bounce passes. Easy right? Not so much. Coach Smith is great at focusing on the basics. The boys (like most young boys) want to run and dribble and shoot. But godbless them they stick with it and over time the majority develop a nice chest pass and an adequate bounce pass. My role? I am watching.
Coach Wright (who clearly knows his stuff) then teaches the boys another intricacy of the game: “How to set a screen.” And the boys run that drill over and over. And then it is scrimmage time.
“Scrimmage! Who wants to SCRIMMAGE?!” Coach Smith shouts. Wow…have you ever seen stampeding bison in old cowboy movies? That is what these boys looked like heading to center court all ready to “run and gun” (as my father would say). The energy and enthusiasm…just wonderful!
20 minutes of boys running, sweating, dribbling, shooting (and occasionally passing) later and practice is over and we (I) survived.
Humiliated? No…at least I don’t think so.
Non-existent? Pretty much.
Embarrassed? Definitely…but at least not humiliated this time.
On the other hand…
Have you seen old films of Red Auerbach? Red was the greatest professional basketball coach ever and happens to have been the commencement speaker at my graduation from Stonehill College back in 1988.
Red was a heavy set balding man who commanded respect from some of the greatest basketball players ever: Bill Russell (greatest center), Bob Cousy (greatest point guard), Tommy Heinsohn (well…you know what I think of Heinsohn), Sharman, Jones, Jones, etc.
As a coach it is critical to be respected.
Did these boys respect me? Absolutely not. I was the fat guy who couldn’t say my own name.
Do these boys listen to me? No. I was the pale guy who was so unsure of himself.
Did these boys take serious any improvement opportunity I shared with them? No way. Coaches Smith and Wright are the experts.
I was the just the fourth coach … the one standing on the sideline.
And I was embarrassing my son.
Or was I?
TO BE CONTINUED …