I Used to Love Him: From a Player’s to a Coach’s Perspective Part I

photo_basketball

Photo Credit: atownrebels.com

Before Kobe ever started exposing The Game, I already had these feelings. They started years ago but were rekindled September 2015 when I saw the “Brown Sugar” film at least three times (the third times a charm, right?). Little did I know how it foreshadowed what I’ve been inspired to write today. I’m Sidney Shaw writing the pages to my book of life that I’ve lived and I’m currently living… mastering my thoughts, piecing them together to create a master piece. The Game is my Dre and I’ve learned to rhyme my own verses without his Beats. #CatchThat

I’d had an off and on situation-ship with The Game for 15 years before I decided to walk away. I realized it was unhealthy for me mentally, physically and spiritually. Then, last September, I re-encountered The Game. Not to my surprise, but he now had teenage daughters – I met him when I was young so I figured he was creeping behind my back – who he spent a lot of time with, showing them love and attention. Women love to see men interacting with their daughters. It took me back to why I fell in love with The Game in the first place. I was experiencing that “Newness” like Musiq SoulChild because “everything is cool when love is all brand new, you learning me and  I’m learning you.” The Game is so smooth like Kem because before I knew it, I was asking myself “how did he find his way back in my life?”

I had just graduated with my master’s in Communication and Information Sciences from The University of Alabama in August 2015. I was doing my due-diligence networking and launching my career, but I couldn’t trade God’s timing for my deadline. So, while I was going through my “waiting” period, I knew the best way to get my mind off myself was to help someone else. I reached out to a former high school teammate and good friend of mine (Coach T) who was the head coach of the girls basketball team at Rambling Middle School. Basketball season was about to tip-off so I figured she wouldn’t mind some extra help with tryouts and practice. It gave me something to do for two hours of my day. During this time, I saw the love The Game’s daughters had for him and their liking for me because of my past relationship with him. Knowing my rough history with him, I can’t believe Coach T still allowed me to get emotionally attached to his daughters (some friend, huh? Lol). Mainly because of his daughters, I fell back in love with him.

Some short time later, T revealed to me that she had a job offer in another state and that she planned to take it as long as everything was cleared. Since things weren’t set in stone, she hadn’t told the team yet, so she had to continue as if she was going to be there for the season. I was happy for T. On the other hand, I thought it was bad timing for her to leave after we had gone through tryouts, were practicing and the season was about to start. Not to mention, the team went undefeated and won its league championship the year before and had a strong chance to repeat. But, I couldn’t be upset with T for wanting to move on with her life. 

At this time, I was still in my waiting period, so I thought about coaching the team but I didn’t want to make that commitment knowing that something I wanted more was on its way. However, I didn’t want to leave the girls hanging either. Me being the caring person I am, I reached out to another friend of mine (Coach K) who played ball for Wenonah High School and West Alabama at the collegiate level. I knew she served as an assistant coach for a high school girls basketball team the previous year and she wanted to be a head coach. I wanted to go ahead and put the bug in her ear before T made the announcement to the team (which is how job placement in any industry really works). My plan was to get Coach K in the door and help out until my new career came calling. And it did shortly there after. I was offered the program director position for Alabama Public Radio in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and I gladly accepted it after discussing it with God, of course.

Ironically, the day of the announcement, it seemed T and I were going to make our exits together: she was moving to Atlanta and I was going to be working in Tuscaloosa. Then – after T broke the news – one of the players asked innocently, “is Coach Young staying?” Suddenly, all the attention and pressure shifted from T to myself. They were already crying and I didn’t want to make matters worse with my good news, which was bad news to them. Lol. But, I had to tell them. And man, it seemed to hurt them even more. I realized in that short time, how much I had positively impacted them. I had been there to help them understand The Game when he was giving them a hard time or they didn’t see eye to eye (many fathers and daughters don’t). Most of them had met him for the first time the year before or that same year – he was a hot and cold husband and father- while a couple of them had known him majority of their lives. I wasn’t their mother – and I wasn’t trying to be – but I still could be a positive female model in their lives. I just didn’t know how I was going to make it work with my new schedule.

Then, after doing her due-diligence, K was in the door. She told me she wanted us to coach together and her schedule allowed for us to do so. The girls would have study hall from 3 – 4:30 pm, they would get dressed for practice and K would be there by that time to get the girls warmed up at 4:45. I would leave work after 4, arrive at practice between 5 and 5:30 and we would practice from 5 – 6:30 pm. And just like that, I was caught up with The Game, once again.

Before T left, we had 13 players. A couple of the girls decided not to play after the coaching change, so we started the season with 11. Three girls were returners (only two actually played) and it was everyone else’s first time playing. We only had five days of practice before our first game, so we had our work cut out for us. T and I had gone over the basics of layups, triple threat/dribbling series, shooting, defensive principles and other basic drills, but we hadn’t implemented any offensive plays or defense. However, K and myself got a lot done in a short time. We put in a basic 3-out-2-in on offense with the low and high posts moving with the ball, and a 1-2-2 zone defense. Something simple but effective for the first few games.

I can’t speak for K but in my first game as a coach, I was nervous! Just because you played a sport doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a great coach in that sport. You may know it well but communicating your knowledge to 11 other people and getting them to perform is a different story! Lol. I could sense the girls were nervous while we were going over the game plan in the locker room, so I kept my cool and tried to help them relax. Although the previous team was a different group of girls, I didn’t want to be the coach that took an L, especially not the first game. I didn’t care what the circumstances were. Plus, I didn’t lose a game in my two-year stint as a player at Rutledge, so of course I wanted to continue the winning tradition as a coach. True competitors understand where I’m coming from.

To K and my surprise, the girls looked like they had been playing together for years. We were up as many as 27 points before winning by 17 against Brick Yard City. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but BC wasn’t a pushover because we only beat the Cougars by three points (38-35) in our following matchup at our house (granted, one of our key players was out with an ankle injury). Although we had a rookie team, we had all the pieces we needed to win a championship. I had this vision during the first few practices while T was still around, and K saw the vision once we started working together.

Our best player (DG) – who was also the best player in our league – was the point guard. She led the team in points, steals and rebounds, Her best friend (NP) – our next best player – was a shooting guard but had the size, strength and IQ to play multiple positions. They were two-thirds of our returning players. SP was our slasher and most athletic player who we used at the small and power forward positions. Hart was our 5-foot-11 center who was also our x-factor. Faye was a small guard but a solid, fundamental player who balanced out the other four starters. Our sixth man was K-Mc, who energized the team on defense. Arie was our “hope” player… when we put her in the game, we hoped and prayed she would play to her capabilities and give us something. Lol. She was the third returning player but she didn’t play big minutes the previous year. The other four girls (DJ, Jamie, TT and Elle) were role players who needed a little more time to develop than the others.

Note: I’ve elected to use designated nicknames instead of the girls’ real names, as well as fiction school names (with the exception of Coach K’s attended high school and college).

However, we were winning by large numbers, so everybody usually had a chance to play in each game. We won our first four games by a total of 80 points: Brick Yard City, 35-17; Silverdale, 40-9; BC, 38-35; Brimington, 41-12. By this time, we were two weeks into the season. We had implemented offensive, out-of-bounds plays and we had extended our 1-2-2 zone into a press. The Game and I had that “Fire and Desire” like Rick James and Tina Marie. I guess the girls didn’t like how well things were going between us. You’d think I was Wale the way those girls – and their families – tried to “Sabotage” our relationship. I guess it was was a “Love/Hate Thing.”

Every team has its achilles heel, and we were plagued with behavioral issues on and off the court. Although we were 4-0, in just our second week of the season, we had multiple players that were either written up or suspended from school. Not to mention the struggle we went through to get parents to pay $152 for the girls’ spirit packs (a couple of parents never payed theirs). But, the saddest part was how long it took for parents to take their daughters to get physicals. I had to explain to one parent that she didn’t have to take her daughter to her primary physician to get it done. She could’ve had that done at an American Family Health Care clinic. As a result of all these factors, we never had a full roster for the duration of our season, practice attendance was inconsistent and we lost players.

Losing Hart was our first dagger. She was considered a problem child because she stayed in trouble in school. But, she wasn’t in as much trouble after she started playing basketball. K and I had a conversation with her mother after one of our home games, and she admitted that Hart was doing better. Quite frankly, I still don’t understand how she got in trouble every day because she never gave us any problems at practice or in games – besides displaying typical frustrations and pouting – but maybe she was a different person in school (most of the other girls were as well). In addition to behavioral issues, Hart was one of the player’s who didn’t have a physical. So, after the fourth game, she and a couple of the other players were no longer allowed to play until they followed proper protocol.

In the midst of Hart missing games (due to her not having a physical) and her missing practices (her mother didn’t make it a priority to bring her), she was suspended for having a two-person food fight during lunch (right before the Thanksgiving break). Mind ya’ll, K and I would get bad news about the girls during the day while we were at our primary jobs. Just starting my career and K just starting fireman school, this was the stress and frustration we dealt with on a daily basis. I was frustrated that the school suspended the kids for everything! It’s lazy that administration doesn’t handle things in house any more. I see why so many schools are failing – the kids need to be in school to learn, heck! I’m not defending bad behavior, but is administration doing the right thing by taking the easy route and suspending students, athletes or not? On the other hand, it was disheartening because K and I stayed on the girls about their behavior and punished them when they did wrong. For them to continuously rebel was a slap in the face. And, I’m sure Hart’s mother felt the same way.

From this point, things started to go downhill. K and I reached out to her mom, but it was hard to get in touch with her. Honestly, her mother really didn’t want to work with us: she never took Hart to get a physical, rarely brought her to practice (not even over Thanksgiving break), didn’t pay for her spirit pack because they were supposed to be moving to another school (it never happened) and she didn’t understand the potential her daughter had as a 5-foot-11 seventh grader. I know one thing, K and I were 38 hot when we found out Hart didn’t move and was still in school after the holiday break. We hadn’t heard from her or her mother. I guess Hart’s suspension served as the last straw and her mother decided to pull her off the team. It would’ve been great if someone had let us know. Smh. If Hart had stuck with us, I believe she would’ve improved as a player and a person. Hart’s mom may not have understood my relationship with The Game. But, woman to woman, she should’ve respected the help I was willing to give her daughter.

As individuals, the best investment we can make is in ourselves; as parents, the best investment we can make is in our children…

References:

  • Kobe Bryant’s retirement letter to basketball
  • Common – “I Used to Love Her”
  • “Brown Sugar” starring Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs
  •  Music producer Dr. Dre, his musical beats and the former Beats by Dre
  •  Musiq Soulchild – “Newness”
  •  Kem – “Find Your Way” (Back in My Life)
  • Wale – “Sabotage”and “Love/Hate Thing”
  • Rick James and Tina Maries – “Fire and Desire”

 

One Comment on “I Used to Love Him: From a Player’s to a Coach’s Perspective Part I

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