I have really enjoyed my time coaching Jasmine's basketball team this year. After suggesting the sport to Jasmine, I quickly decided that I would volunteer to help out. I came into the coaching job a little jaded as I had a bit of a trying time with the same age group during the summer soccer season. The girls I coached in the summer were very young and unfortunately, many of them did not seem very interested in the sport of soccer. This in turn distracted a few of the others and made for a very difficult experience. I was unable to teach any new skills to the girls that did want to learn. Nonetheless, I signed up to help with basketball.
I played organized basketball in elementary school and I really enjoyed it. I was and still am a sports nut. I have not come across a sport that I did not enjoy, and basketball was no exception. Although I gave up the game after grade 7, I still played regularly in our driveway, at the park or in the school gym when I could. It really is a great game and I felt that Jasmine's athleticism and long frame may find her aptly suited for basketball. I was also hoping she could meet some new girls and enjoy herself. The games were scheduled for Saturday mornings which worked well for us. As I know very little about the fundamentals of the game, I have relied heavily on my co-coaches Jackie and Jay who are both great guys who I have really enjoyed volunteering with.
What has really made my time so enjoyable are the girls. I have never met such a well-mannered and attentive group, and I had my view of the typical 8-9 year old girl changed completely. Over the course of a dozen games, I have had numerous opportunities to share advice and impart tiny bits of wisdom to the girls to help them to improve. When we started in November, 7 of the 8 girls had never played before. A few of the girls were unable to shoot the ball high enough to make a basket. As coaches, we were starting at the very beginning. From the very first Saturday, all 8 girls wanted to learn. When any of the 3 coaches called the girls over to show them something we had their attention. The girls have now learned how to playing stifling defence, how to bounce a pass to their teammates, how to crash the glass after a missed shot, how to use their off hand to guide their shot, and most of all, I think most of them have learned to enjoy the game. Each week it seems a different girl has a great game. One of my favorite games saw one girl score 7 or 8 baskets even though she couldn't even hit the rim 3 months before! This same girl comes over to the coaches after every game and says "thank you", which still gets me everytime. Another of the girls told me when I asked her if she played any other sports, "Um, well, I play the piano." She has become our defensive stalwart, using her height to block shooting lanes and grab rebounds. We don't usually win, but noone seems to notice. None of the girls count the score, and nobody worries about how many baskets they have made. As a coach I love to point out the great pass or the defensive play as much as I do the baskets. If the girls get some positive feedback about the little things in the game, I figure it will only encourage them to continue doing them.
I have fun with all the girls, but most of all, I enjoy spending time with my Jasmine. She likes having me coach as I think it adds a level of comfort for her. She is not shy, but she likes to have me involved and that makes me feel good! Jasmine has done well learning things like the bounce pass, the defensive shuffle, and she has become a good shot blocker. She is quite inconsistent as some weeks she is very aware and into the game, and other weeks she seems to have little interest and becomes frustrated quickly. Today, she was on her game. She made her dad very proud with her hustle, effort and perserverence. We spend the first hour of our weekly sessions practicing and warming up for the game that takes up the second hour. Jackie led the group, warmups with the balls, a few dribbling drills, a layup and rebounding routine and a few water breaks. The girls are starting to grasp the game of bump and a few are really getting into it. We finished up with a 2 on 2 drill focussing on movement and using the defensive shuffle to stay with your check. Jasmine was working with Jackie behind me, then all of a sudden there was a big collision and two girls go down. Jasmine had collided with one of her teammates, and her teeth had cracked into the back of the other girl's head. Both girls went down, sobbing loudly, as we rushed over to help them to the bench. Jasmine was quite upset, and told me her tooth was loose. I reassured her that there was no blood, and she held a wet towel on her teeth to cool it down. She sat down for about 10 minutes, by then the game had started, and before long she was ready to give it a try.
We had spoke before the game about ways that she can get the ball more often. She has struggled to understand why the other girls aren't passing to her, and I was letting her know that she needed to move away from defenders, find the open spots and then call for it. She also needed to make sure she was passing when she got the ball, so that she could be part of the passing plays as well. After taking a few shorter turns, Jasmine got back to playing hard. She ran hard up and down the court, rebounded a few balls and brought the ball up when she was playing guard. All in all, she had her best passing game of the season. Jasmine threw a very nice bounce pass to her teammate for a layup and she didn't get caught taking too long with the ball. At the end of the game she dribbled up the court, saw an opening and went straight in for a layup. She always has a little jumping cheer that she does when she scores, and I was happy to see that at the end of the game. All in all, today's game was a very satisfying experience and I think it has cemented my place as a basketball coach again next year.