Knowing Better

I’d like to meet the person who coined the phrase, “With age comes wisdom.” I’d like to meet this person in order to kick them in the groin, hard! Because it appears that, in my case, the only thing that comes with age is, well, age. There are just too many times when I really ought to know better.

Many years ago I began coaching basketball for the homeschool recreation league my oldest daughter was playing in. It was a lot of fun and I’ve done it ever since. There are (usually) two age groups for each team in the league; a 9-12 group and a 13-and-over group. I’ve always coached the 9-12 team. The two teams share the court for practice, each team taking one half of the court until the last 15 minutes or so. During those last minutes teams will take turns holding a full-court scrimmage. The coaches play with the 13-and-over team.

This week, we began practice with the usual wind sprints – running one-quarter of the way up the court then turning around and going back and forth adding one extra quarter of the court each time. I pulled a groin muscle on my first turn but continued to push through anyway. I really should know better than to run with the kids. I should REALLY know better than to keep running after a muscle pull.

But I managed to shrug it off for the remainder of our practice. The other coach and I put the kids through drills, trying to get them to perform them at game speed. I did this by staying put and passing the balls around instead of running. I also managed to stretch a little in the process so that by the end of the drills I was feeling okay.

Then came scrimmage time. The first two practices featured myself, the other 9-12 coach, the 13-and-over coach and the seven members of the older team. Precisely enough players for a full-court 5-on-5 scrimmage. This last practice included the assistant coach (and league administrator) of the older team. Thank the Lord, God above that the coaches had a substitute. I was the first to be subbed for…thankfully. I tried to talk to some of my players on the sidelines about how the older, more experienced players moved without the ball on offense and how they shifted on defense. I’m not sure if they heard the words over the heavy breathing, it was hard to discern by the looks on their faces.

Fortunately I wasn’t totally alone in this regard. My co-coach jogged to the sideline and said, “Line change, just like hockey,” signalling for me to take over during game play. At the end of the season we hold a game between the 13-and-over All Stars and any of the coaches stupid enough to play against them. I am stupid enough to put my body through that annually. By the second half, all old-man substitutions are handled like hockey. Screw waiting for the buzzer!

Normally another team practices immediately after us, so we have to get out of the gym promptly at 5:30. That wasn’t the case for the last practice. So, we continued to play for another 15 minutes. I should’ve known better than to continue to play after the first five.

I think all us old guys kept playing because we didn’t want to let on we were tired. It was a macho thing. Eventually I decided to be the girlie-man. (Although I think all the other coaches were grateful that I declared quitting time.) As I huffed and puffed my way out the gym, I saw the mother of one of my former players who graduated to the older team. It’s a relief to know a charge nurse with years of experience is present at practices for an old coot like me. Who cares if she works on the NICU, I’m pretty much crying like a baby by the end of scrimmages anyway.

I really ought to know better.


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