It’s a painful transition; young athlete turned thirty-something, but a necessary one for us all. I was your typical high school jock, playing basketball every day of the week without the worry of a full-time job, a wife, or any other significant responsibility for that matter. Then, virtually overnight, thirty came crashing into my life bringing with it bad knees, twisted ankles, and the lung-capacity of an asthmatic chain-smoker. With my playing days all but over and my passion for the game still at its very peak, I reached for the nearest outlet I could find: coaching.
Having heard through a friend that volunteer coaches were needed in our local recreation department, I immediately placed a call to the director and scheduled a meeting. A few hours later I was the new head basketball coach of the newly formed 11-to-12-year-old boys’ basketball team – better known as the Liberty Bulls. Quickly, I formed an assistant staff with two long-time friends and Sealevel co-workers, and we began preparation for our first practice which was only two days away. We went into the season with a sink or swim mentality as players and coaches, but we refused to simply tread water by accepting anything less than attainable excellence.
It didn’t take long to reach the conclusion that this was it – this was exactly what I needed to help fill the basketball void. These young men had the heart, the desire, and the energy, but they needed someone to help them link those traits with the fundamentals, knowledge and focus needed to become complete players. Their eagerness to learn and desire to improve coupled with a few hours of structured practice and individual instruction yielded astounding results in minimal time.
Currently, we are a 4-4 basketball team with a couple of gutsy wins and nail-biting losses against much more talented opponents. These young men are old enough to realize when they are physically and athletically over-matched, yet they are still too young to be intimidated. The most dangerous “underdog” is one that does not completely understand the meaning of the term.