While all the drama of the past month or so has been going on, I’ve still been coaching basketball, which has been a saga in and of itself. We started the year off with our rag-tag group of kids, and lost 3 games in a row, right off the bat. The kids, so used to instant gratification, started to get showing signs of giving up right off the bat. Not only that, but our team took some major blows when some of our most talented kids were ruled ineligible, due to abysmal grades. For a while, it looked like the team might disintegrate. We had a group of kids who really didn’t know how to play at all, another group in the gray area of eligibility, and our most experienced players were proving to be extremely fickle in their dedication. But our head coach stayed on them day and night, bring the kids in for meetings during lunch, holding practice every day after school, and calling them constantly to keep them reeled in. I think the turning point was when Coach managed to get the kids into practice on the three snow days right before break, because over break, the kids one their first game at a tournament out in Baltimore County. When I got back after break, we won three of our next four games. We came back to win the last game of the first half of the season by about 12 points, after trailing the first 3 quarters. I couldn’t have imagined a better note to end on, leading into the break in the sports schedule for finals. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that the play-offs would be within reach?
And then it fell apart. Coach scheduled practice for every day after school during finals week. It should have been easy for the kids to come, because during finals week, school let out at noon. Yet, we were having practices with only 5 of our 15 players showing up. Kids who had been leaders of the team up until that point were missing practice, with no explanation. One of our players was kicked off the team entirely when he was spotted smoking pot a short walk from the school, when he should have been a practice.
All of this went down about a week ago, but Coach and I still don’t know what the heck happened. Two of the players who disappeared haven’t even been to my class this past week. The most bizarre thing is that this implosion happened just after we started tasting success. You could say it went to their heads, but we really weren’t successful long enough to say that the kids started to get complacent. It’s like something got into them all of the sudden and messed their heads all up.
Fortunately, the kid that is undoubtedly the heart of our team came back into the fold, as did his brother, who is our leading scorer. Since then, it’s been as though we’ve started almost from scratch again, only with less raw talent and almost no depth on our bench. The good news we don’t have to deal with some of the team drama queens anymore; the ones who are left are the ones who really want to be there. And I have seen amazing growth in the skills, attitude, and work ethic of the players who have been dedicated enough to keep showing up. I’m extremely proud of them.
The tough part will be getting the bulk of our mostly inexperienced squad on the same level as the two brothers. We’re going to get some of our ineligible players back, but not until the very end of the season. It’s going to be a bumpy road.