Coaching a basketball team isn’t on my dream inventory or my bucket list, and it wasn’t even something I jumped at when the opportunity was first offered me. I was able to coach Colton’s 4th/5th grade team this year in our local junior league, and I had the best of times (I can only hope the kids enjoyed it and got better to, right?).

My team was made up of 4 fifth graders from Eminence and a couple fourth graders from Cloverdale. We had practices that were part large-group time with all the other teams, and part time on our own. I really had no idea what to do, so every week we’d do some basic stuff like layups, boxing out, and all that stuff I think you’re supposed to do.

My team, the Black Bears as they named themselves, worked well together. We had some kids that could definitely dribble and shoot, and others that were still learning some of the basics. By the end of the practices, though, they had all gotten better at some things, which is a big part of my job as coach, I’d suppose.

We wound up going something-and-one for the season. I don’t know how many games we played, but as we neared the end of the season, these kids really started working together. Sure, we still had one that often dominated the scoreboard, but watching them help each other out on defense or passing the ball ahead to a teammate while they were on a fast break just made my day.

During the final game, we set up a play for our one teammate that hadn’t made a basket yet. His name was Conner, so we thought of the reindeer Donner, and to disguise the play’s intent we named it Rudolph. Appropriate, right? The idea was that the designated player would take off down the court as quick as he could when a play ended and everyone else would drag their feet, hoping the other team would as well. Then they’d throw the ball down the court to the wide open Conner who would get his first basket.

That was all well and good, until Conner got the ball while we were on offense, dribbled to get open, took a shot, and made it. That boy didn’t need a special play by us. You should have seen him smile. He was proud… and he then came up to me and told me we didn’t have to get him the ball anymore. 🙂

From that point on, since we had 2 games that final day, all of the kids wanted to be Rudolf. So we gave several of them a chance. They called that play so many times, and it even worked a time or two. What made me happy was just seeing them playing together, passing the ball, trying to get a teammate open.

Next year Colton and most of these kids will be in Middle School, so there won’t be a junior league basketball league to play in anymore for him. MaKenna still has years to go, though, so who knows… maybe I can try this again sometime.