by Kevin Sylvester
The score in the photo is from my son’s middle school (7-8 Grade) basketball game last night. We were the winning team, and as one of the coaches I was happy we won and proud of how the entire team performed. We were unselfish, executed plays, and worked hard. We knew we had a good opportunity to win because we had beaten the team previously by a larger margin, but nothing was guaranteed against the smaller, faster team that we knew would play hard. It was a good win, but not what everyone in the gym took away from the evening.
We took control of the game early with some defensive pressure that lead to early baskets. We were able to get 8 kids in rotation in the first quarter, all 8th graders playing their last home game. That was one of our goals. The lead was 14-3 with under 30 seconds to go in the first quarter. We were holding for the last shot, but an open lane provided the opportunity for a basket. The shot missed, and our opponent got the rebound and outlet to the point guard. Two seconds, one second, and the kid released a shot from near mid-court. It might have been longer, but I don’t recall because I was watching the ball. It had a chance. The ball was traveling at a fast pace towards the left backboard (from the bench side), and made a sudden stop in the middle of the white square taped on the glass. The ball then moved backed in the direction it came by a foot and then straight down. HE MADE IT! AT THE BUZZER!
Both benches erupted. The audience made of parents and grandparents, stood up to clap. All of them. Everyone in the gym gave the kid a standing ovation. I’m actually getting chills writing about it. It was an amazing moment. To have our bench jump up and down because an opponent made an amazing shot confirmed to me what I already knew; our team is made up of good kids. It didn’t end there either.
Operation Tan Man
In the 4th quarter we were about to make our last substitution, all five players for the final three minutes of the game. I brought the five guys together to draw up a play, and pointed to the the kid who was going to get the ball “shoot as soon as you get it!”. That kid is the guy we call the Tan Man. He hadn’t scored all year, and we wanted to change that. The other 4 players were psyched up to make it happen. Tan Man was to set up in the left baseline corner and then come up to the wing. The point guard was to look him off and then pass to the right wing. With that pass, the power forward and center had to come up to the left wing for a double pick to open up a lane for the Tan Man to head to the basket.
The start of the play worked. The ball made it to the right wing, the player drove, and then passed to the Tan Man who received a great pick from our big men. He got the ball, but missed. Ugh, but we still had time. I signaled to run it again. Once again, a good pass to the right wing, our winger drove and passed up the open layup to feed Tan Man. He got it and quickly released the ball upwards. The ball kissed the inside of the top left corner of the white square and dropped in! Our benched erupted for the second time in the game. I’ll admit a fist pump or two after I jumped up. I then snuck behind the scorers table to the opponents bench and explained our reaction. The other coaches said no problem, they knew what was going on.
While sneaking back, the Tan Man scored again! The kids ran the same play on their own. How cool is that? The referees even thought it was great. The smile on the Tan Man’s face was worth it. The reaction and support his teammates gave him was even better.
Yes I’m glad we won the game. Records are kept and winning is fun. Too often we read or hear about all that’s wrong with youth sports. Bad coaches, bad kids, bad refs, etc etc. But that game reinforced what’s good about sports. Kids working together for a common goal. Being selfless to help a teammate have a shining moment. Celebrating and congratulating an opponent for an accomplishment. These are things I believe they will remember and carry with them through life on and off the court, knowing there is more than the score.