Friday, March 11, 2016

70. Special Olympics

I am not a good coach. Err… let me rephrase that, I am not a good coach if your only objective is to win games. My mind doesn’t work in terms of X’s and O’s the way smart coaches do. I’d like to think I’m decent at motivating people, but I tend to look at the big picture of things, as in, “What really matters here?” I’m one of those “As long as you had fun” type of coaches.

I probably couldn’t handle the stress of organizing practices, managing personalities, working late, and dealing with parents.

But, I really enjoyed my one season coaching Special Olympics basketball. I miss it because there was an abundance of joy there.

I coached a team that had three kids with special needs and two other kids who were guides on the court (I can’t remember what the specific title was). I didn’t need to do much in the way of plays, basically I helped with fundamentals and encouraged them.

The only thing was, all three of my kids had better fundamentals than I did. One girl had a pretty good jump shot. Another guy was bigger than me (and most of the other kids on the court) and the other girl, who was on the spectrum and didn’t talk much, had a great inside game when she got focused. When she got her shot, about five feet away from the basket, she couldn’t msis.

Thomas, the boy’s name, was a funny kid. I remember before one game I told him, “Thomas, I need you to rebound.” He nodded and went out to get a double-double and overtook the game. After the game he said, “Did I do good, coach?” I had to laugh and say, “Yes.”

My glory moment of coaching came during a tournament. We didn’t try to win, but my three kids were probably some of the most talented there. We played another team and we went into overtime. My kids weren’t hitting their shots. I don’t know if they were tired or what, but we had a few seconds left and we were down by one. I called a timeout and told Monet (the girl who could hit in the lane) to take the last second shot. She got the ball in her spot and made the shot. I got up out of my chair and yelled, even more than my team. It was one of my favorite sports memories.

So many things are devoid of joy these days. I don’t think we value that enough. I love sports, but I saw it become way too serious for my taste so many times when I was reporting on it. Yeah, it sucks to lose, but at the core of it, it’s a game and games should be fun.

I don’t think I could coach anything above third grade. That’s when things start to become “win or else.” I miss the team I coached. They loved to play, learn, and improve themselves. And best of all, they were joyful. I miss that.  

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