My wife and I are coaching our 11-year-old daughter’s basketball team this year. My wife has experience, me not so much. Last week, I had to coach the team on my own. We go live to the bench…
All right, girls, halftime. Take a seat.
So this is the part where I lean in close so that your parents think I’m giving you some strategic coaching advice for the second half, even though I have no idea what I’m doing and even less about what you’re doing out there floor. How many of you are out there, anyway? Really? You’re sure it’s only five? I swear there are seven or eight of you at a time. If you all would stop moving, maybe I could keep track. Not you, Trisha; you’re doing a great job of standing perfectly still.
So, remember that time-out I called in the first half for no reason at all, you know, when I offered the coaching gem, “Try to make more baskets”? Okay, well, keep doing that, all right? Now, nod like I just told you something brilliant. Wait, let me point down the floor as though I’m indicating positions. I’m pointing there. There. An-n-n-d, with a circle motion, there!
Have I ever told you girls that this is the first time I’ve coached basketball?
Right. The first half of the game, I focused on subbing. Honestly, that pretty much took all my attention – like freaking chartered accounting getting you girls on and off the bench! That and finding your water bottles. Luckily, you girls really helped me out by constantly asking, “When am I going back in? Is it time to go back in? How come I’m not going back in?” Just remember, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about me not getting yelled at by your parents for not giving you equal playing time.
Yes, I know Number 9 on the other team never once subs out, but her coach really wants to win because his father withheld approval and affection, which may also explain the inking-dre oblem-pre…
Now, if you need to come off the floor, you just have to tell me, but please be specific. Are you tired? Are you hurt? Is it a pubescent girl thing? Because I don’t deal with pubescent girl things. If you’re just sad because one of the Jonas Brothers got a haircut, that’s not a reason to come off… The Jonas Brothers… The boy band…? Aren’t they still a thing…? “One Direction”? Isn’t that the choir on that TV show “Glee Club”?
Whatever. Girls, girls, listen! We’re down by 13 points. That seems like a lot and, well, it is. But you can do this. Probably not, but maybe! It’s going to take a lot of perseverance. Do you know what perseverance is? A purse? Sure, Melanie, it’s sort of like a purse. And inside that purse you’ll find strength and sportsmanship and guts. No, not real guts, Stacy, that would be gross. Also in that purse is team spirit, which is what I tell your parents we excel in, as opposed to winning games. And if you happen to find my self-confidence in that purse, please let me know.
Did I mention that the only thing I played in high school was hooky?
There’s the buzzer. Here’s what we’re going to do in the second half. Remember that play we learned in practice? No, I thought not. So just keep running back and forth and try not to let the other team score and I’ll continue shouting obvious commands from the sideline: “Run!” “Jump!” “Rebound!” I’m just like a parent except I have a clipboard.
And remember, if you win it’s because of me, if you lose, it’s your fault.
Okay, hands in. “Coach looks hot in his pink team shirt” on two. One, two: “COACH LOOKS HOT IN HIS PINK TEAM SHIRT!”
Now let’s get out there and forget this pep talk ever happened!
A version of this piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway” on the Quebec Community Network on January 15, 2013.