The Big Kid and Basketball XXIV … the Love of Coaching

[Continued from The Big Kid and Basketball Part XXIII … Retirement]

There were great learnings over the many years I coached young men’s basketball.

Yes, hopefully by the young men I was blessed to lead, and yet even more so by me.

I came into coaching as perhaps many a father does … by simply wanting to support my son, The Big Kid.

And the journey was one of great mountains climbed and many valleys crossed.

There was blood, there was most assuredly sweat, and there were many a tear. And yet today I look back at amazing young men finding their path and I am ever so proud of each.

If you think coaching is just about X’s and O’s, you are either not fully engaged as a coach, or simply never had the opportunity to open your heart to the fullest.

Coaching allows you to impact a life in some of the most powerful and profound ways.

  • A young man dealing with body image issues.
  • A young man struggling as his parents divorce.
  • A young man rejected by the many teams he approached.
  • A young man neglected by his parents.
  • A young man experimenting with drugs.
  • Young men trying to prove themselves in a society that provides mixed messages as to what a young man should be.
  • A young man bullied by adults (other coaches, teachers, neighbors).
  • A young man learning about death and dying as his mother fights heroically her battle with cancer before succumbing to the disease.
  • Young men wanting to feel wanted, wanting to find their place, their community, their home.



The X’s and O’s were the easy part.

Leading, mentoring, parenting, coaching these young men through these challenges when at times they love you and other times they hate you … all the while you loving them … now that is the Heart of Coaching.

Trying to live a life where you own your own frailty, your own mistakes, and each day, each game, still striving, still leading even when on occasion the face in the mirror wants to do something (anything) else because of the pain you yourself feel … now that is the Soul of Coaching.

  • New substitution patterns to better position the team to win.
  • Implementing new plays taking advantage of your team’s strengths.
  • Creating a new style defense to leverage what your players do best.
  • Modifying and then running skill development drills to ensure both learning and fun.
  • Simplifying and then implementing new offensive plays based on the best of the best in college and pro ball to keep the kids interested.
  • Teaching, supporting, cheering, coaching.

Again … the easy part.

Comforting two young men as their father passes … now that is the Engagement of Coaching.

And each day realizing you are on an island … simply a parent trying to help … making many mistakes … learning and growing … and hopefully serving and helping others … that is the Love of Coaching.


When I decided to step away from Coaching I knew that one day I would come back to basketball … in one form or another.

And no, not as a player.

And recently I did.

Not as a Coach this time. But rather as a team sponsor.

Yes, the sponsor of the Gorham High School Rec Basketball team … DHLG.

And to do so, I knew I needed to find a new Coach. A special Coach. A Coach who may be young and yet has the heart, mind, soul, and love of the game but even more so the love for helping others … and has done so all his life.

The first place I looked was to my son Tommy, The Lion. And yet, he was away at school and coaching these young men requires time.

Then I knew exactly who my team needed.

We needed another young man with …

  • a track record of helping, supporting, caring about others
  • integrity and compassion
  • knowledge of the game and even more so knowledge of people
  • maturity, dedication, perseverance
  • and a Heart of a Tiger

And that is who I recruited … and that is who our team got  … our new Head Coach …


Mark Ridgeway

Mark is all the above and more … and the young men of DHLG will learn, grow, be cared for and cared about, will learn the game of basketball, and will learn the game of life.

Thank you, Mark, for carrying forth as Coach of DHLG.

Each day you inspire.

Each day you teach.

Each day you care.

Each day you love.

Each day you make this world a better place.



NEXT The Big Kid and Basketball XXV … Courage



  1. Mark is my grandson. What uplifting words were used to describe him. How very proud of him we are! How wonderful it is to have someone
    share this with everyone. Mark your Georgia family is so proud and happy for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice reflection, Tom! Yes, yes, yes…this is what coaching a youth team consists of. X’s and O’s usually take care of themselves…it’s the heart of the matter that counts. I knew we could count on you being a great sponsor, Tom, but this puts you over the top! I couldn’t explain this to our “recruits” of volunteers any better for sure! and Mark Ridgeway? Fabulous person and excellent choice for the team. I remember when Mark was a young, young player with Gorham Rec himself! I have had Mark as a student at USM and both on and off the court, he is as you described. Those kids on that team are more fortunate than they know and we can only hope what values are being instilled in them this season stay with them for a lifetime! Job well done Tom and Mark! Thank You. Cindy Hazelton, Director, Gorham Recreation Department

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That means a lot! The rec will always hold a special place in my heart, I’m happy to have the chance to give something back to it!

      Liked by 1 person

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