Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone
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Basketball Diary part 1: The Gods Must Be Crazy



In response to requests, I have ditched my old school use of first initials. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the guilty.

I have been on quite a journey recently. This is the first part of an on-going story. Enjoy.

A few months ago, a lady who's daughter goes to school with my girls called up. She was trying to get a 2nd grade basketball team going through their school. I told her I thought Ella would enjoy that, or at least it would be "good for her." So, I said yes.

This lady, called Debbie, found two girls who go to a local university to coach the team. During November and December, they had a few practices. It turned out Debbie couldn't get enough 2nd graders involved, but found several 3rd graders. So, her daughter and my daughter ended up as the only 2nd graders on what is now a 3rd grade team.

Things seemed to be fine, until we got to our one and only scrimmage. It took place during a "jamboree," in which all the kids got their uniforms. After getting dressed and taking pictures, the girls scrimmaged against another team for 15 minutes.

I have never seen a little girls basketball scrimmage before, and I was not prepared for the experience. Let's just say that some of the parents were really into it. Not only that, the other team beat the heck out of our team. I am not sure that we scored at all, and they just couldn't stop scoring.

We have ten girls on our team. Seven of them are from our little Christian school. The other three are from other schools and got placed on our team when their home teams filled up. The team is part of a local league for children's sports. According to the site, this is a recreational league--not a "competitive" league.

Yeah, right.

So, the next day (last Saturday, the 6th) we played our first real game. One of our coaches showed up. She is a very nice young lady who sat very nicely on the bench while our team got crushed. I don't mean "crushed" like when you step on a bug. I mean "crushed" like a soda can run over by a train. In the first quarter, when the score hit 20 to 0, the person operating the scoreboard mercifully stopped adding points to the other team's score. We ended up with an official score something like 46 to 7.

I am all about little kids having fun. But this was no fun for them or anyone else. They were sort of shuffling around the court with these dejected looks. While this was going on, I'm sitting on the bench doing what I do: yelling. Not mean spirited yelling, just encouragement yelling. Twice, parents looked over at me and said (in a friendly way) "why aren't you the coach?" That probably came from the fact that I was engaged while the coach wasn't.

A couple of hours after the game, Debbie (the organizer mom) called me up and asked if I would be willing to be an assistant to the coaches. She felt like the team needed a motivator, someone who knew what they were doing. Motivator? Check. Know what I'm doing? Absolutely not.

Here's the deal. I have never played basketball in my life. Yes, I have played a pick-up game a few times. But, and this is important, I stink. Like fish left out in the sun for three days.

Honestly, I barely know the rules of basketball. I don't watch it on TV. I think I've been to one game in my life, and that was the Harlem Globetrotters. Beyond that, I haven't played a team sport since little league. And don't get me started on that experience.

But, I thought--"why not? The college girls have all the skills, and I can just throw in some enthusiasm." So, I said yes.

Debbie called an extra practice for the next day, Sunday afternoon. An hour or so before that practice was set to start, Debbie called me again and left me a message. It went something like this:

"Hey Thomas. I talked to (the college girls). They've decided to bow out. A couple of parents made some comments to them, and they feel like they aren't able to do this. So, I guess that means you're it. Sorry about that, but I know you'll do great."

So the man who has never played basketball, hasn't played a team sport since he was eight years old, has never coached anything, and doesn't even really know the rules is now the head basketball coach for these ten 7-9 year old girls.

And so this post concludes with the obvious: the basketball gods must be crazy. Tune in next time for: the first practices, and the first game.