I have thought more about high school basketball this past week than I did when I played it in high school. Not exactly true, because I’m not really thinking about it so much as thinking, “I used to play basketball. That was a long time ago.” I don’t really remember much about it other than awful uniforms, long bus rides, and wanting to play but being scared to play at the same time. I don’t have clear memories of this game or that–just vague bits of raucous gyms and silly cheers. I’ve always loved the smell of the gym and the feel of a basketball and the sound of it hitting the floor. Jump shot motions and follow-through and ballhandling drills have stuck with me more than makes sense. It does make we want to get out on a court….
When I first coached basketball, I was 21, fresh out of college and teaching English at an all-boys, Catholic independent school outside of Boston, St. Sebastian’s, C.D.S. It was unusual for a female to coach boys back in the early 80’s, but it didn’t faze me. It didn’t take much to impress those boys–a female making a shot was more than they could comprehend. When I scrimmaged with them, they were terrified to come near me, so I was a star rebounder for the only time in my life. I was an assistant coach and the head coach was completely ignorant of basketball–he taught religion–he might have been completely ignorant of that, too. I remember being in an opposing team’s gym, down by many points. At a time-out, unnamed head coach gathered us round and told the hapless and frustrated boys, “Take the ball down the court and shoot!” Words to not win by.
When I coached girls bball 10 years ago or so, I finally found my stride. Every once in a while I needed to jump in and scrimmage or demonstrate something that when I played in high school or college I probably wasn’t that skilled at. But here, with 30 years on these timid, unathletic girls, I was finally a player. So that was all it took for me to be decent. Beat up on people 30 years my junior. Good times.
Actually, as a coach I’m equally interested in cracking jokes as teaching skills. Too bad I’m not coaching now to impart these morsels to hungry minds: There is no I in team. But there is a me, and those are my initials. And also worth noting–team spelled backwards is meat. Yes, it is true I was an English major. Comes in handy, on the court and off.