By jlarlee 03-21-2011 08:14 PM
a small note I started a column about sports and entertainment in the military paper I work on. I don't get a lot of feedback there so I figured I would psot a few here since they are in blog style. I know some of the military stuff may not connect but my insights on sports translate.
After finishing my deployment this year, one of the main things I wanted to do was to get back into youth coaching. I have been coaching in a multitude of sports since I was a teenager.
I often talk to a lot of people who want to pitch in, but are afraid to because they don't know much about sports. Extensive knowledge of the game really isn't necessary, especially when coaching younger children.
At the young ages you are trying to teach very basic things to them. In fact, if you coach in the youth league here, you are loaned a DVD that contains more than enough information and even some basic drills to run during your practices.
Really all that is required is some patience and an ability to repeatedly encourage the young athletes to keep trying.
My favorite coaching moment happened in 1996 when I helped a determined 9-year-old boy meets his basketball goal. For the purposes of this story I will call him "Ryan."
After watching an impressive playoff performance by Reggie Miller, Ryan was impressed and decided to try his hand at basketball for the first time in his life. His favorite part of Miller's game was his dead-eye shooting from behind the three-point line.
Ryan was by far the smallest and shyest child on my team. He was unable to reach the rim on his shots from anywhere on the court and barely could dribble the ball.
I had noted him playing on another team during the soccer season a few months prior.
He was an absolute dominating presence on the pitch. He was lightning fast, aggressive and racked up quite a few goals even though it seemed like he was barely bigger than the ball. I knew he had the ability to be a great basketball player if he put some effort into it.
You could read the determination to improve his hooping prowess on his face during the first practice and I wanted to help facilitate that.
It took a lot of patience and words of encouragement but Ryan started to steadily improve. After a few practices he was able to reach the rim with the basketball.
Three games into the season he hit his first ever basket on a lay-up. His ball handling skills improved by a huge margin as well and by halfway through the season he was one of our team's best ball handlers.
Even with all the advances he was making.
You could tell he was not going to be happy until he sank a shot from three-point land.
He tried a few times during the year and was unable to get within a foot of sinking one.
The last game of the year came along, and our team had not won one game.
I felt good though because many of the kids had improved and they were really having fun playing. Ryan's ball handling had improved to the point that he was bringing the ball up court on the majority of our possessions.
His speed and footwork was paying dividends for him. He was able to score a few easy lay-ups a game and often passed to open teammates for easy shots as well.
He had gone from being the player with the worst skills to being one of the most skilled players on the team.
About halfway through the first period, he came down the court, stopped a full two feet behind the three point line and launched a shot.
He was so deep behind the line I figured the ball would just go out of bounds. But that shot had other plans. The ball just kept sailing towards the hoop.
With a loud bang it hit the front of the rim and it had enough momentum to spin over the rim, thump against the backboard and ricochet back into the basket - where it finally settled into the net for Ryan's first three-point shot.
The whole team celebrated like we had just won a championship. Ryan's face lit up with one of the most precious smiles I have ever seen in my life.
He jumped up and down a few times and basked in the glow as a few teammates patted him on the back.
He then streaked back down to the other end of the court so fast that you thought they were giving free cotton candy under the opposite end's basketball rim.
Watching him reach that goal and knowing my part in it hooked me on youth coaching for life. With every child there are different expectations of how they can perform.
But patience and constant encouragement is needed for all of them.
In the end, the payoff is well worth it. Helping a child develop and reach their goals is extremely rewarding, and you can't put a price on a child's ear-to-ear grin.
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|AlexLeSage - 03-21-2011, 08:56 PM|
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