Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Best Season

          A few years ago, after 16 years as a volunteer basketball coach, before I was hired by a high school; I thought I would take a year off to expedite my late in life career change into education. A neighbor approached me and said that the local community church had a need for a volunteer basketball coach, of course.
          As I walked into the first practice, I met the kids in the classroom to get introductions out of the way. One young man caught my attention. He caught my attention not because of his basketball abilities, but it was his situation that sustained my interest. These were high school seniors and this boy's father had coached him for the past several years. I didn't know the community that well, but from what I understood his dad was a good linebacker for the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame. On its own, that fact was not extremely significant, but in the previous summer the boy's father lost his battle to cancer. So his dad didn't choose to stop coaching his son, it was not possible.
          At the first practice I posed the question as to the name of the team. There were a few answers but not from the boy. We couldn't agree for the next two practices. During the end of an intense third practice, as in every practice, I gathered the group of pumped up players and came together close inside the jump ball circle with arms raised to count down from three and exclaim our team unity.

I simply said, "On three we say our team name."

One player asked what it was and I simply stated, "We're the Irish...On three..."

To see the boy walk off with his buddies with a grin bigger than his face is something that stirs emotion when I think back on that season. We barely won a game, but I looked forward to watching the tremendous heart that team played with every game, and felt extreme pride every time we walked off the court. Yes we lost more than we won, but those guys played with the attitude and heart that champions should play with every day.
          Bless you boys, may the road rise to meet you, and may those Irish eyes smile upon you every day young man.