When my brother asked me to coach my nephew’s basketball team, I thought, I don’t know anything about little kids, about coaching, I don’t think I’m the right man for the job. But my brother persisted, “Come on Rob, I’m so busy with work, and the kids really need a coach. This could be a great bonding experience. Think of all the memories you guys are going to make together.” So I said, “All right, I’ll do it.”
And on the first day of practice, I could tell that it was going to be a struggle, trying to teach these kids how to do anything, there wasn’t a whole lot of raw talent to work with. “All right boys, let’s line up for some layups.” And they just kind of stood there, this one kid wouldn’t stop dribbling, even when I was talking, not even a good dribble, just smacking the ball with his palm, smack, bounce, smack, bounce.
I knew from as soon as I agreed to coach that I only wanted to teach by positive reinforcement, so I was like, “Jimmy, that’s some great bouncing right there. But do you think you could hold the ball for a just a second while we line up for layups?” And this little shit just kind of smiled at me, like he was thinking, bingo, I got this random dude pissed off, and what’s he going to do about it?
And what could I really do about it? I didn’t want to give up on the positivity, not just yet, and besides, the kid’s mom was standing over in the corner, and this I couldn’t understand, why so many moms had to show up and stay for the whole practice. When I was a little kid, my parents just dropped me off and drove back when it was time to pick me up. I mean, yeah, I guess it is a little unnerving to just leave your kids with some other kid’s dad’s brother. But do these moms really suspect that I’d be up to something?
Come on, and it’s like, you all have so much free time to stand around and watch the practice, maybe a few of you could have teamed up and coached. You think I know how to be a basketball coach? I don’t. And I don’t even have kids. So when I’m staring your way, because one of your kids won’t stop dribbling the ball, and I’m looking for a little help, like maybe you could shout out, “Jimmy! Listen to the coach!” but you’re not, you’re not even being helpful standing there, I’m feeling the constant scrutiny, your only purpose is to glare at me, that, “I’ve got my eye on you buddy,” stare.
“OK Jimmy, keep up the dribbling, keep practicing, you’re doing great,” and the extra positive reverse psychology didn’t work either, this brat could see right through me, he knew I wanted to yell, to take the ball away, something.
“All right kids, make two lines on either side of the net,” and I still couldn’t believe that nobody knew how to line up for layups, “No, I need two even lines, so like five of you have to move over to the other line. No, not all of you, just five of you. OK, see, now the other line is too big. Right? Moms? A little help here?”
There wasn’t any help. And then once I introduced the idea of one side shooting, the other side rebounding, all the kids made a rush to the side with the balls, one long line, everyone fighting to shoot next, nobody rebounding. After like two minutes, the whole thing devolved into the big kids shooting around, grabbing their own rebounds, everyone else kind of off to the side, I think they started playing dodge ball or something, one kid got pegged and one of the moms screamed out, “Hey! Watch it! Watch the face! Hey! You coaching over here or what?”
“Sorry!” I tried to act sincere, I was still trying to be positive, “All right kids, that’s some great energy!” I knew that I didn’t want to be responsible for messing these kids up, yelling at them, they’d be turned off from sports for years, I don’t know if there’s any truth to that, but they’re not even my kids, I couldn’t deal with the pressure, the responsibility, all I could do was offer blanket, generic praise, “You kids are so fast! All right! You guys are doing great!”
And then that Sunday it was our first game, I hadn’t really done any coaching yet, these kids never got past the layup line. But what could I do? I bought one of those dry-erase clipboards, the ones with the basketball court outline, for making plays and stuff. But it was a blowout, worse than the worst basketball I’d ever seen, just an overall poor example of human beings trying to do something together.
All I could do was stand there and clap, “All right Johnny! Nice shot!” it was an air ball. “Great hustle Timmy! Keep hustling!” all while the parents sat there on the sidelines and scowled at me. Some dude came up during halftime and got in my face, “I’m Jimmy’s dad. I don’t think he’s getting enough playing time. And did you guys even practice? Did you teach them how to shoot lay-ups? Which one’s your kid?”
And I really wanted to get right back in this guy’s face, like hey pal, what are you doing on Tuesday nights that you’re so busy you can’t be the coach, huh? And you’re going to come over here and start bossing me around? Why don’t you ask your wife about why the kids couldn’t line up for layups, she was at the practice, enabling your little jerk-off son, he just kept fucking smiling at me, slapping that ball, slap, slap, slap.
But what could I have done? I just tried to keep up that positive attitude, I told Jimmy’s dad, “Hey Jimmy’s dad, you’re doing some great cheering over there! I’m really happy with the energy you parents are giving off! Keep up that clapping, that’s what we need to keep doing, clapping and cheering! All right! We’re going to have a great season, it’s so much fun! Just thanks for being here! Thanks for letting little Jimmy be a part of our team! All right! Thanks!”