One day last month, before my eighth-grade girls basketball team was going to take the court in a few minutes for pre-game warmups, I teased one of the girls.
She stood behind one of the other girls, getting her teammate’s pony tail into a hair tie. Not once, but multiple times, because it wasn’t “right” yet.
“How long can it take to get your hair ready to go out and sweat and play basketball?” I asked.
“You just don’t understand because you’re not a girl,” she replied.
I claimed ignorance of such proceedings, as Deb and I raised two boys, and at the time we had two grandsons, Sage and Benji. Mostly we wrestle around on the carpet and play with cars when we visit them.
“We’ll be your daughters for now,” my player eventually said, rolling her eyes at how much the ol’ coach had to learn about relating to females.
Well, suddenly I’m on a crash course. Deb had it pegged. Earlier in the winter she said, “I think we’re getting two girls.”
Both of our sons and their wives were expecting births in February. As it turned out, two little girls were each born a week early so I already have two new granddaughters before our season ends today in a home game. So, this month has kind of been a whirlwind for our family.
In fact, 10 days ago we were leaving Davenport after visiting Willow Wren Peterson, daughter of Keith and Kelsey Peterson, and hit a snowstorm that hovered above Interstate 80 all the way to Des Moines. I made it to Red Oak to coach our game that day with about 10 minutes to spare!
After the thrill of meeting Willow and playing with the boys on that weekend, we got a terrific Valentine’s gift from son Brett and his wife Shawna of Waukee. Their first child, Ellowyn Noelle, was born at 8:47 p.m. Sunday at Iowa Methodist Medical Center.
We now have two beautiful little girls to spoil in addition to those rambunctious little boys. It’s a joy to be able to experience both boys and girls, and those two cousins will grow up with a special relationship, born 12 days apart.
When I announced my retirement from the newspaper in December, this was a big part of it. The next chapter in life is unfolding, and I’m here for it!
That being said, I still enjoy my part-time job as a middle school basketball coach. Certainly, this final week of the season didn’t play out as I imagined, as our final practice Monday and a road trip to Clarinda for games on Tuesday were wiped out by this week’s awful cold front. I’m grateful we were able to get together one last time today for the home game against Shenandoah.
This is a common occurrence, but it especially rings true with this eighth-grade group I have. Just as we showed signs of really “getting” some of our offensive and defensive emphasis points in better performances last week, the season draws to a close.
Having seven days off without chances to build on that progress may not entirely translate to a polished effort today, but we’re glad for the opportunity, nonetheless.
Last week as we left the gym after a victory in which all 15 players saw action, one of our “newbies” to the sport was walking with me and said, “That was fun!”
She had never played basketball before our first practice on Jan. 6, and in those early days she was like a young foal, stumbling around with no idea where to go, or what to do. For her to make that comment a few weeks later was the rewarding part of this job, the “why we coach” aspect.
Part of the duty is to teach them new skills, but it’s also how to guide them in working for something as a group and be good teammates. Hopefully they learn some valuable life lessons that way. This girl became a legitimate basketball player, which was not something she believed about herself seven weeks earlier.
This team has faced a size disadvantage in an unusual number of games this year, based on my past experience in this age group. Yet, they have been resilient and never stopped trying to improve the next day in practice if they were knocked down the day before. I loved that about them!
I enjoy the bond that develops in those “goof around” moments before or after games and practices, when they give the old man a hard time. Yet, they also knew when it was time to work.
The cool thing about this year is that a player on my first girls team in Creston, Haylee LaMasters, became our assistant coach. Besides being a young female who can relate to them better, she was another voice in practice who played for me and understands what I’m trying to convey.
When I heard Haylee talk to them about taking it more seriously when we were fumbling through a half that we should have dominated more than we did, it warmed my heart. Here’s a former player saying exactly what I was about to say!
She had been to the mountain top as an elite player in the storied history of the Creston softball program directed by Mike McCabe and Teri Keeler. She knows what it takes to be better than average. And, she was expressing that to the girls in that Red Oak hallway.
THAT’S what keeps me coming back each winter. Well, that and staying in the game so I can teach those granddaughters to make layups and do the crossover dribble someday!
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