The Big Kid and Basketball Part XIII … Superman

[Continued from The Big Kid and Basketball Part XII … Body Image]

Early practices for a new team (including a first year head coach) involve many tests.

Tests of players by coaches. And tests of coaches by players. Or at least one would think so.

Early on it was apparent … we were a team.

Yes, we would test and grow and learn. But mostly we would learn.  Together as a team.  A very special team. We would learn.

Chest Passes

“Chest passes! Set up two lines. Today we are going to learn how to get the ball safely from you to your target (the closest open player).  Who knows what ‘safely’ means when we talk about passing a ball safely?”

“Okay. Tommy. What do I mean be ‘safely’?”

“Safely means the ball does not get stolen by the other team.”

“That’s right, T. We work way to hard (said with my Boston accent) to get possession of the ball to then turnaround and hand the ball right back over to the other team with an ill-advised or poorly executed pass. Once we have possession of the ball we want to keep it until ideally the ball goes through the net.”

“I want each player in the line closest to me to have a basketball.

Now …

  • If you are right-handed place your right hand on top of the ball and your left hand to the side.
  • Bring the ball to chest level.
  • Grip the ball with your fingertips and have your fingers evenly spread with your elbows tucked into your body.
  • When you go to pass the ball take a step in the direction of the target being sure to keep your other foot in pivot position so you do not get called for ‘travelling’.
  • Use your ‘pivot foot’ to push off and generate power behind your pass.
  • Generally, a good chest pass is delivered by stepping with your dominant foot. If you’re right-handed, you’ll usually step forward with your right foot. However, it’s important to be able to deliver a clean chest pass by stepping forward with either foot.
  • Extend your arms fully and push the ball in a straight line toward the chest of the closest open man.
  • Be sure to follow through by thrusting your arms and snapping your wrists. Your hands will end up with your pinkies pointing upward and your thumbs pointing downward.
  • The backs of your hands should be facing each other.

… got it?”

“Yes, coach!” I hear Jimmy yell. God I love this kids enthusiasm.

Unfortunately most of the other players with the ball in their hands look a bit bewildered and the ones ready to receive the ball just as puzzled.

“That’s great, Jimmy.  And boys, there are NO worries. I just shared a lot of information. This is practice. We are practicing. We are practicing together. Don’t worry if you don’t get it at first. You will and coaches Norgaard, Sampras and I will help.”

Yes. We are a team.

For the next 20 minutes the players made chest passes back and forth.

From Jimmy to Tommy and from Tommy back to Jimmy.

From Jon to David and then back to Jon.

From Haylee to Michael and the back to Haylee.

And so on and so on … over and over and over.

According to Navy Seal lore, “under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training”. Although this is “only” recreation basketball as coaches it is our responsibility to ensure the children are well trained to achieve their goals on the court (and also off the court which we will find out later).

Each pair of players made chest passes with us three coaches reminding, showing, instructing, teaching, and raising the level of these players training.

And together we learned how to make a chest pass.

“Great work, team. Now go get some water.”

Superman

I had initially noticed Jimmy during the player assessment a few weeks back.  Brown shaggy hair. Brown eyes.  Of average height. A little slumped over in his walk. A boy who rarely made eye contact. Always chomping on gum.

On the sidelines and in between drills he simply looked like another player desiring to play the game of basketball for hopefully the right reasons.

And yet … he was not just “another player” which I saw as I stood alone and watched the assessment scrimmages.

NOTE: And based on Jimmy being available for me to select late in the draft (due to my team’s low draft position) apparently I was the only coach blessed to see this boy’s gift at this time.

Scrimmage

Jason, one of the more talented ball players being assessed has the ball under his own hoop. He dribbles left as he runs toward half court. There are two of his teammates open ahead. One at the elbow where a nice back door lob pass would lead to an easy bucket and another a foot behind the arc all set to bury a three.

Jason is not looking up but rather focusing his attention on the two defenders in front of him. He cross over dribbles from left to right as he approaches the defenders and then using his athleticism and his good ball handling skills he stops on a dime and takes two intentional steps backward in an effort to gap the double team.

Unfortunately while Jason is focusing on the two defenders in front of him and preparing to make his next move a third defender comes up from behind him and ‘picks his pocket’ by timing Jason’s next cross over dribble and with his palm facing up knocking the ball forward to one of the double teamers.

“No ‘reaching in’ foul”, I think, “simply great hustle, an excellent move, and solid team defense.”

With this, the boy who has received the ball takes off toward the hoop with his partners in crime (or at least partners in stealing basketballs during an assessment scrimmage) filling the lanes (providing passing options to the new ball handler). Jason, clearly a bit frustrated turns and watches as the triad drives to the hole for an easy bucket.

A three on none (three offensive players with the ball and no defense in sight).

Or at least I thought so as literally out of nowhere a streak of grey flies by me as I stand on the sideline parallel to the foul line on the near side of the court.

The boy who had made the initial steal has now received the ball back.

“Great share.” I think. I love a good chest pass. I love any good pass.

And after another dribble or two he dishes the ball to the third boy (Colby), the one who had filled the other lane (on the left), and Colby now drives to the hoop for the uncontested layup.

As he takes his last dribble he shifts the ball from his dominant right hand to his left and launches himself off his right foot toward the hoop, ready to bank the shot off the backboard for an easy two and hopefully notices by the coaches.

“Watch out!” I hear the boy who initially stole the ball yell as that grey streak I had noted somehow catches up to Colby from behind and without fouling him snatches the ball out of Colby’s left hand, tucks it into his gut, and carries the ball out of bounds, preventing the easy bucket as his momentum carries him directly into the cold, white, cement wall which he hits with full force and a hollow thud.

“Oh my God! Are you alright?!” I scream within my own head as I start to run toward the now still grey mound on the floor.

But before I can get there (yes I am pretty slow) the grey mass gets up, chomping on his gum, and slamming the ball into the floor as he jogs back onto the court to take his position on defense.

“What is his number?” I think.

And after many advanced yoga moves to look over, around, under and through the crowd of players, refs and coaches, I see that this grey force of nature is number 43.

“43. He is number 43. But who is #43?” I think as I scan my assessment player list.

“Jimmy. Jimmy Douglason. Number 43.” I note.

Back on the court, Jimmy continues to chomp on his gum as he runs stoop shouldered up and down the court harassing ball handlers, blocking passes, diving into the stands, running with the ball with an occasional dribble, and slamming the ball off the backboard like he is trying to shatter it à la Darryl Dawkins (but without the thunder slam).

Jimmy is everywhere. Jimmy never stops. Number 43. Number 43 is Jimmy.  Number 43 is like Superman.

“Jimmy is Superman”, I note on my paper.

And then I write … Superman = Heart.

My team needs a Superman.

TO BE CONTINUED …

Next “The Big Kid and Basketball Part XIV … Mixing Work and Play

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