It’s currently 6:10 PM as I sit in the Portland Airport after a long two days of club basketball. I coach for Idaho Premier (a club basketball program out of the Treasure Valley area of Idaho) and this season (Spring of 2023 I coach two teams in the 17U bracket). As I sit here, I’m reflecting on the weekend which ended in a 49-47 loss in the championship game in a back and forth battle with a ton of energy.
How can a loss be beautiful you ask?! Well it’s because it’s not about one game, or one tournament. Club basketball is about the growth throughout the three short months you are together in the spring, both individual growth and team growth.
Both of my teams in 2023 have been so fun to coach. Two TOTALLY different types of teams with different personalities and skillsets. But they have both fought so hard to find their identities as teams, and with that, they’ve been able to compete in their tournaments. But see, it wasn’t always that way.
In our first tournament of the spring season (two weeks into the season) one team ended up getting 40 pieced in one of our games. We looked out of sync. We didn’t have any sort of identity as a unit. And it would have been easy to be discouraged. But the kids kept fighting.
One team found their stride in Boise one month later when they played in the “Potato Bowl” and lost on a last second bucket in the championship. It was then we knew that they had a special team, it was just about tightening up the loose ends.
Arizona a week later ended up with an 0-6 record for our Red Team and 1-3 for the White. But I stated after that tournament that people should ‘watch out for my guys.’ I could sense a shift… Almost like a dog that knows a tornado is coming, I knew something was about to happen.
In California one week later, the White team faced adversity. Their leading scorer who led them to a 3-0 record the first two days, ended up breaking his finger in the 3rd game with just a few minutes to go. After that they got matched up with a tough team from Utah, who had a TON of solid players on that squad. After a tough loss, we got matched with the only team to have beaten that same Utah team…. And that’s when our team came together for a true team victory. They won by 16 points and finished the tournament 4-1.
Red team finished 2-2 during that California trip, with the losses coming by a combined 6 points. Again, I was SO PROUD of those guys! They were coming together. They didn’t win all their games either, but I could sense the shift coming.
Then you see what just happened now in Portland. Our next to last tournament of the season thus far. And now, it’s 6:27 PM as I still sit at the Portland Airport, thinking of the tournament. My Red Team (same team that was once 40-pieced in the first tournament), just took one of the better teams we’ve faced, to a last second game in the championship… Finishing 4-1. Keep in mind, that’s five games played in a 25 hour window. They fought… They fought hard. And that’s the team we KNOW them to be! It’s BEAUTIFUL!
White Team finished 2-2… But the two wins coming today after starting the tournament 0-2 in games they felt they should have won. The response of coming back and finishing the tournament with two wins, was again, BEAUTIFUL!
It’s not always pretty. I say some BLASPHEMOUS things while I’m on the sidelines (mainly towards refs and other players). The fouls are outrageous, the atmosphere is sub-par in most places, but it’s all part of the BEAUTY!
Club basketball is a literal ROLLER COASTER!! I’m drained and I didn’t even play. (Maybe it was the freaking saunas of gyms that we played in throughout the weekend, but dang)…
I’m so grateful for this opportunity to be around the young men, in the sport that I once competed in. To be around their energy. The ups and the downs and seeing how they respond! It’s a blessing. And although a major sacrifice (one I’m not sure how long I can do as my kids are beginning to get older), it’s a major blessing and one I don’t take for granted!
As we get older, we see what life is going to be about. We know the peaks and valleys that many of the young men and women in the world are about to experience. We want to do our best to prepare them for those. And that, is where I believe sports can help. You might think it’s ‘just a game.’ You might believe it’s only a sport and nothing else. I however, believe there are MANY life lessons from sports that you’ll learn and utilize to prepare you for life.
When you can ‘stay the course’ even when the season looks daunting at first, and you can continue to put in the work and continue to come to practices, and continue to buy in to the ‘team mentality’ and then keep fighting game after game through adversity… You will see the fruits of your labor. You may end up 2 points short of a championship, but you can see where it all comes together! It’s just like life though. It’s easy to show up when you’re winning. Where the diamonds are made is when there’s pressure and it’s not easy. That’s when you really see growth.
That’s what we’ve experienced so far in this season of Club Basketball. And that my friends, is why Club Basketball, is so beautiful!!
PS – If you haven’t checked out The Gametime Guru Podcast, make sure to give it a listen 🙂
The Gametime Guru