The Big Kid and Basketball Part VII … the Snake

[Continued from The Big Kid and Basketball Part VI … the Second Practice]

Looking back I recall my son looking at me during this time period (a time when I felt so small) like I still knew it all.

“Tommy don’t you see your father embarrassing himself on the court?”

My son (the boy who was not allowed to play with the other kids because he was too big) giving me a hug and kiss at bedtime after each practice and thanking me for being HIS coach.

My son (the “big kid”) asking me for advice or for my thoughts on basketball.

My son.  I am so blessed.

Funny how God works…at your low points by His grace He brings to you His paraclete in the form of a boy (a Son).

Thank you, God.

Thank you, Tommy.

I wish I had been able to recognize this back then. I wish I was able to let Tommy’s love for me wash over me and cleanse me of all my demons.  Ah the wisdom of hindsight and age…

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  – Maya Angelou

But back at that time I did not allow the love in.  I was still in fight or flight (actually just flight) mode … “countdown” mode:  Okay…two practices down.  How many more to go?  When is the first game?  The last game?  Can’t end soon enough.

One Small Win for Dad

So, the league we were playing in has specific rules.  Each player must play an even amount of minutes and those boys who played on “travel” teams cannot play back to back periods (1/2 quarters) unless that is your only option (meaning everyone else has played).

Easier said than done.

If you want to watch WWE in action watch coaches contest one another’s substitutions during a 9 & 10 year old Saturday morning boys’ basketball league.  This can get very competitive and quite ornery.

After a few games of Coach Smith putting his line up together for some reason he asked me to make out the next line up.   Why me?

Well … I am a self-taught Microsoft Excel Geek.  So the first thing I do (after reading the substitution rules again) is open up an Excel workbook and go to work.

Hmmm … each player must play an even amount of minutes and boys who play on “travel” teams cannot play back to back periods unless that is your only option. Hmmm … How can we leverage the rules and our team make-up in a way that best positions the boys and the team for success while honoring these rules?

After many hours of “playing” with Excel I develop a lineup that I believe will meet all the requirements of the league, ensure equal playing time, and best position our team to win. And in the process I come up with a tool in which each week I can plug in the roster and arrive at an optimal line up.  Yes!

I decide to call it …  the “snake”.

Not Kenny Stabler snake-worthy but for an Excel geek pretty cool none-the-less.

What the snake does within Excel is it automatically populates each periods lineup evenly and by moving for example the 2nd best player to the 5th position (so still in the starting lineup) it allows for our best players to play both side by side with our other best players at the beginning and end of games (through the snake movement of the lineup) while also giving everyone equal playing time.

Brilliant … right?

Actually quite simple once the rule was simplified in my mind and the model was built.

So time for the first test.

I send Coach Smith my suggested lineup for the next game and he responds with a resounding:

“Thanks.”  (Did I mention that I am a Myers-Briggs ‘F’?)

Okay … could be worse right?

Game Time  

During games Coach Smith is up, walking the sidelines, yelling instructions and encouraging the kids and the team.  Coach Wright is at the scorer’s table, “keeping the book” (game stats), while also sharing instructions with the kids on the bench.  Coach Sampras is typically sitting on the bench (actually on a folding chair during home games) and I am always down at the far end of the bench taking notes.

But this time I have a job.  I am now responsible for ensuring that the lineup is adhered to.  So I have my copy of the lineup I had suggested to Coach Smith and I am watching the clock and telling the boys when it is their time to go into the game (according to the rules and the “snake”).

Hmmm … rules … snake … ? What could go wrong?

Just what my gut needed, more pressure.

We are playing against a team whose coach (Stan Bellows) I remember well from Tommy’s Cal Ripken baseball (similar to Little League) experiences.  He is a short fellow with a big smile that is seen far too rarely.  He is fiery and when he doesn’t like a call in a Cal Ripken baseball game is quick to yell, scream, accuse, and truly go “off the deep end”. (I wonder where that phrase came from?)

The basketball game is very close and we are now moving into the final period.  The snake is working well.  The kids all have equal playing time.  Tommy is playing as much as everyone else.  He is rebounding and making solid passes and appears to be enjoying himself.  Our best players are now in a position to go back in to finish the game.  And then it happens…

Coach Bellows starts yelling:  “What is going on here?!?!? These boys cannot go back in!!!!  This is against the rules!!!  This is bull$@^!!!!!”

I immediately go to the place of:

“Did I screw this up?  Is the snake methodology wrong?  Did I make another mistake?”

While these things are going through my mind Coach Wright calmly walks over to me and requests the lineup I developed.  He looks at it and steadily walks over to Stan and says:

“This is the lineup.  It is within the rules.  All the boys have had equal playing time.  Take a look.”

Coach Bellows responds:

“I don’t give a $@^! about a piece of paper.  This is bull$@^!!!  Just play the f@$%in’ game and then I am going to the league!”

(I told you this was WWE-lite).

So we play the rest of the game and with our two best players back in and Tommy rebounding we win the game pretty handedly. Our boys are excited.  Everybody lines up for handshakes…except for Coach Bellows who is still steaming.  I am sure glad he doesn’t know that I made out the lineup.

After the game Coach Smith and Coach Wright talk to the team, share their thoughts on what worked well and what we can improve on and then dismisses the team.

And that is it … or so I thought.

I few days later the league commissioner sends an E-mail to Coach Smith who forwards it along to me.

Subject line: “From league office”.

Ugh .…

“The League has found the lineup used by this team to be in accordance with the rules and recommends that all teams utilize this type of lineup to ensure equal and fair playing time.”

Phew … but too bad … now every team has my strategy.

Darn it.

Perhaps I should have trademarked the “snake”?

Back to the proverbial drawing board aka Excel.

TO BE CONTINUED ….

Next “The Big Kid and Basketball Part VIII … am I Coaching?

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