Disclaimer: I love basketball. I love playing, coaching, watching and thinking about basketball. Currently, while I might love basketball, my body is telling me that playing it should not be first on that list anymore.
My new office, at my new job, happens to be right around the corner from two basketball gyms in the school. Thank you SAAS. I was elated to hear the bouncing of balls, the squeaking of shoes on the court and hearing that nothing-but-net sound as I walked in the gym. I was wearing my mask as I walked in, so the coaches and players could not see the smile on my face as I grabbed a ball and threw up a couple of jumpers!
After a few introductions, I was quickly invited to play pickup with a few players. As the new guy, I was nervous. I am now a year older than the young fellas. I am now in a new city, a new part of the country, how different is the game here in Seattle? I am now shooting on new rims that are unfamiliar to me. I am now realizing that I am going to be the old guy wearing my glasses while I play pickup!
As the ball was checked and I made a couple trips up and down the court... many of the concerns above evaporated. Instead, I found myself at home. There was one possession that I remember very well. I played some horrible on-ball defense on one of the better players in the gym. My player blew by me for an easy uncontested layup. As I looked at my other four teammates, they were literally hugging their man. For those of you that don't understand that terminology follow me on this:
When playing defense, most coaches coach for defensive positions in four ways and they ask you to communicate and call out what you are doing. One reason is to communicate to your teammates, the other is so that the verbalizing of your position sets into memory. While you are guarding the ball, you should be yelling BALL-BALL-BALL. If you are one-pass away, you should be yelling DENY-DENY-DENY. And if you are on the weak-side of the court or a skip-pass away, you should be yelling HELP-HELP-HELP and you should be in a position to help!
So, the paragraph you read above, that is pretty much what I quickly explained to my teammates. The one position that I want to focus on now, is the HELP. The man that I was guarding beat me off the dribble. That was my fault. I need to be better. But at the same time, my teammates were not there to HELP me. Each of my teammates were only worried about stopping the person that they were guarding. I knew that if we were going to have a chance to win the game, or at least be competitive, we had to have a coaching moment. I basically used a timeout in pickup basketball to coach.
The game of basketball and the situation above is parallel to the game of life. If one is too focused only on the things in front of them, they do not see an opportunity to help others. If there is a problem, it is important to communicate in a way that everyone can understand, and feel part of the solution to the problem.
And finally, if one can not guard their own man, maybe I should stick to coaching!
Thank you basketball for making me feel at home.