This year I’m enjoying a first — coaching a girl’s sport, basketball. A team made up of Notre Dame de Sion juniors in the CYO league, it’s a rather unusual arrangement as most coaches do things I don’t. Practice, for instance. They also use those white boards to diagram plays, make strategic substitutions and scout their opponents. That’s not me, not us.
This experience has taught me that there are 10 rules, indeed, commandments, that govern the coaching of girl’s high school recreational basketball teams. And here they are:
1. Thou shalt reject any conventional notions of coaching. You are a spectator on the wrong side of the court. Act like it. They are having fun doing something that doesn’t involve 140 characters. Don’t screw it up.
2. Thou shalt not yell, scream or point. Yelling is reserved for fires, tornado evacuations and flash floods. The last person who barked at them was their varsity coach. The guy whose team was picked to win the league until half his roster walked because he forgot the word fun. Now he is selling Ginsu knives. He just rang your doorbell.
3. Thou shalt not hype big games. Don’t pressure them. Sure they want to win, and have more competitive fire than their brothers, but not at the expense of hugs and keeping friends. If you achieve those goals and end the game with more points than your opponent, you just became dad of the year.
4. Honor the fact that they are girls; resist high fives and other guy things. Old men trying to be hip with young adult women is not only uncool, it could be illegal. Sorry, this is the new normal. Accept it and move on.
5. Thou shalt remember that your players will take direction if it’s done in an “it’s up to you, whatever you feel like doing is fine” way. Act like you don’t care. Wrong examples: “Get in there and make some stops!” Right: “Julie? Hi. How are you doing? Feel like getting in the game? It’s the fourth quarter.”
6. Thou shalt not commit a substitution faux pas. Suggest that maybe, perhaps, their teammate needs a breather. But it’s wrong to replace someone who isn’t ready. Feelings are in play.
7. Motivational speeches might work if they have the right tone and content. Wrong: “Remember in “Rudy” how...” Right: “In ‘Twilight’ just when Bella became a vampire...”
8. Thou shalt understand that basketball terminology has a different meaning with these players. Example: block out: You’ve been de-friended. Rebound: He was a jerk, move on. Full court press: Two weeks to the girl-ask-boy party and no prospects. OMG!
9. Thou shalt restrict spectators to parents and siblings. Tell that kid from Ellinwood with the Bieber hair you are playing in Bonner Springs. At midnight. At halftime kid brothers will want to shoot around and annoy their sisters. He’s got no game whatsoever, can’t jump, dribble or pass but wears $200 shoes like Lebron. Go ahead and laugh but in five years you’ll be his coach.
10. There will be texting, twittering and FB updates during timeouts and half time. Big whup. Social media doesn’t take a vacation just because you are in overtime.
Dads, if none of this makes sense, it explains why you live alone in a van down by the river. With an incredible steak knife collection.
To reach Matt or read excerpts of his book, go to www.matthewkeenan.com.