I recently received a small token of appreciation from a family at the end of our season. The gift was much appreciated, and quite unnecessary, but it was the card that was attached that was more important.
The card expressed the gratitude of the family for our season of coaching. I received one card, as did two of the other coaches, all of us whom had coached their two kids throughout the year. The card came with a note from the parents, as well as notes from the two kids. All of it brought a smile to my face. But the card wasn’t the reason we coach either. Not for the words of gratitude, nor the thanks. Because even the card itself was not the real gift.
The real gift had come about 36 hours earlier, during one of the kid’s final games for the season. It wasn’t a championship game, nor was it a “win”, in fact we lost the game. But it was one of my most rewarding games of a year that included championships and undefeated seasons.
During the game, after facing a quarter time deficit of 22-11, we needed someone to stop the other team’s shooter who scored 14 points in the first, on 4 of 4 from behind the arc. I asked the question of “who was ready to run”, and one player put up their hand, having not had a break in the game yet. They didn’t take a break the rest of the game. Didn’t ask for one, didn’t take one when offered.
We lost. By six points. But that wasn’t the important part. The important part was that we played our best game of the season. We went down by 16 points in the second. But we scrapped, we kept playing, we kept breaking their press, we kept defending; as a team, with commitment and grit. Who knows what the score would have been with another 2 minutes to play. But again, the score didn’t matter.
We couldn’t play them man-on-man, missing three of our players and only one on the bench. We went a box-and-1 and the best moment came when their shooter left the floor. As I scanned the opponents on court to shout out who they should pickup, the moment came. My player walked back to the top of the arc, calmly pushed the top of the box to the wings and informed the team we were in a 3-2. The player in question is 13 years old, playing with (and against) players 2 years older, and running the court like a general.
We coach because we love it. We love working with kids, helping them reach their potential and grow; not just as basketball players, but as people. We love the game, and we love teaching others about the game we love. To receive a note from this player that I’m one of the reasons they keep playing is great validation. But the greater validation is to see them take our lessons and apply them on court.
Neither parents nor players, see how much time we spend talking about our kids / your kids / you. We’re “tragics” in that respect, but we’re happy tragics. We pour our days, afternoons, evenings and every weekend into them. And we love it.
Moments like that final game, watching all of the players have their best game of the season, and watching the growth of one player in particular make every lost weekend worthwhile.
Thank you for letting us share that with you.
This is why we coach.