Saturday, January 29, 2005

Coaching...

I feel as if this blog is all about basketball...but that's where my life is right now so I guess it is to be expected. The truth of the matter is, I had no idea what to really expect when I got into coaching. When I lived in the KC area, a guy I worked with asked me if I would be interested in volunteering to help him coach a Christian high school women's basketball team. At first it was the most frustrating thing I had ever done. They giggled, talked about boys, and quite frankly didn't seem like much of a basketball team. Athletics at the school were not well funded and we only practiced once a week (twice if we were lucky.) All of our games were travel weekend tournaments. Time went by, I helped to coach the posts, did some athletic training duties when necessary and offered moral support. By the end of the season, I loved those girls, had seen them grow into a winning team, and was deeply saddened that I wouldn't return as their coach the following season since we were leaving the KC metro area to move to Iowa. Working with those girls taught me a lot about having fun, being a true member of a team, how losing can strengthen you as an individual and a group, and how much heart can really play into the game even with lack of talent.

Skip ahead several years and I find myself volunteering to coach at a division III college! I mean, what was I thinking? What qualifications did I have to even consider coaching at that level? A degree in exercise science yes, but only a bachelors and I'd never even taken a class in coaching. I was walking into a team of pre-assembled girls who were learning about me and my offer to act as assistant on the first day of practice. Needless to say I was a bit intimidated. But once again, I was working with a group of girls who may not have had the talent and athletic discipline normally associated with "college ball" but who over that first season showed more heart than many of the winning teams I had been a member of during my athletic career.

Deciding to continue coaching this second year was a tough decision. The pay sucks. (That's a joke since I'm a volunteer.) The hours, well, think about when you're watching college ball...it's not a 9 to 5er. And while I'm fortunate to work with a program that strongly values families, and mine is many times in attendance, my involvement does require me to spend time away from my family. But it always comes back to the girls, the players that is. The first day I walked into the gym for my first practice, I seriously wondered what I had gotten myself into. These were college athletes? Their fundamental were lacking. Their bodies were not well conditioned. For goodness sakes, most of them where short! It didn't take long for my view of them to change. Today I see everyone of my girls as an athlete. They work hard, they sweat, they cry and they cheer. They are competitors. They work as a team and they strengthen themselves as a group and as individuals each day that they are on the court. That's why I love women's athletics. It's about the strength, the bonding, and the healthy sense of accomplishment and competition that so many girls gain from being involved in athletics regardless of the sport or their age.

But as a coach, and especially as an assistant, I've found there are many frustrating times when that bigger picture is hard to see. After a successful year last year, we're finding ourselves in the middle of a losing season this year. Three and 12. Not a record to brag about. And while it's been frustrating at times, this has been a truly transitional learning year for all of us involved. I truly believe in my heart that if we can all stick together through the finish of this year, we'll emerge a better team next fall. My thoughts tonight are many following a tough loss and some candid discussion with a few of the players who are venting their frustrations with some of the coaching decisions and other players. As the assistant (and the only female coach the coaching staff) I occasionally feel trapped in the middle. I'm honored by the fact the girls are comfortable confiding in me some of their frustrations. I see part of my job as assistant coach as support for them and a bridge at times between them as players and our head coach. I also feel a sense of responsibility to our head coach as part of his support staff. The problem I'm having now is knowing how to convey players feelings while not breaking confidence and continuing to support the head coach's decisions, sometimes even when I don't agree with them.

As a women, coaching women, assisting a man, things can get pretty messy at times. Any woman who is an athlete will tell you...we are competitors and we do get emotionally involved in our activities in ways slightly different than men. Therefore we have to prepare differently and be assessed and critiqued slightly differently, and sometimes, for a male coach, that's not an easy thing to learn. We're tough cookies, don't get me wrong...but our buttons push a little bit different at times. On the flip side, as a woman who cares deeply for her players, I'm having trouble learning just when and where I can be assertive with coaching decisions/suggestions as they relate to my somewhat control freakish head coach.

I don't know if those decisions will ever get easier. If I'll ever decide whether or not this is a "permanent" profession for me. I do know what I enjoy most about coaching, and I hope to continue to grow my abilities and knowledge in those areas and learn to be more assertive with my head coach regarding those issues. I also know that there are parts of coaching, important parts...like game strategy and play making...that just don't interest me at this time and therefore will probably prevent me from ever being a head coach myself. At this point, each step of the way seems to be a learning tool or a test...and for now I'm just enjoying the education.

Will I be updating this blog a year from now on the road as a coach? I don't know, there's a lot of factors that will be playing into that decision over the next year. If not, it won't be because of a lack of love for my players, the experience or the game. After this experience, in my heart, I'll be a coach for life!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Darby...

The opening weekend at Darby...great in the sense that we now have a gym we can call home; one of our best shooters made the first points ever scored in competition - and it was a 3 pointer; we had good crowd support; BUT we lost both games. Played hard, just not the desired outcome on the score board. I'm now sitting in a hotel room in Wisconsin (working, or something like that) on the weekend of our last road trip! Well we have one more during the week road trip but since those don't include nights in a bed besides my own, I don't count them :) No predictions or wishes, except that the girls play good hard ball.

My husband has been sick this week. You've got to love the winter colds of the Midwest. Yesterday my daughter started running a fever...I just hope I am not next. I'm pretty hardy and taking my vitamins :)

Our DSL at home is active as of today! Gone are the days of SLOW dial up down loading. Isn't life amazing...today's "necessities" include cell phones and high speed internet...yet we are still watching TV with reception from a pair of rabbit ears!

Well, my hotel coffee is getting cold.

PEACE!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Basketball...

I coach women's basketball. Well let me be more specific...I'm a volunteer coach for a Div. III college women's basketball program. Basically I use my expertise as a exercise science professional to help out with the strength and conditioning programs and provide general support at practices and games. This past summer (June 2004) our gym was demolished to make way for a new campus center building. Tonight, after 12 straight road games, we are opening at home in our BRAND NEW facility. While the whole building is not finished, the gym is ready for some play. I'm very excited. I think the only way I could be more excited is if I was actually PLAYING.

Working full time, being a mom and wife, teaching yoga and aerobics and coaching is an amazingly busy schedule. But each of my involvements contributes so richly to my personal and family life I can't imagine doing anything different. We are part of a community...and it's a good place to be.

Cheer for a win!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Welcome to the world of Blog...

Journaling. I've always wanted to do it, never been good at it. Not that I don't like to write, I just can't seem to remember to take the time to write things down. I have many a journal that has been started....and then left to collect dust among the others. Like the "what do I want to do with my life" journal from 6 years ago when I was in an unfulfilled, unhealthy job...it's what I wanted to be doing...just not the right place. Then there was the "thoughts for my baby" journal that was started the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child that contains about 3 weeks worth of thoughts. Will my blog be any better? I guess we'll see!