As many of you know, basketball has been a big part of my life for the past three years. My friend and I have volunteered as coaches in the North Haven Youth Basketball league and have had a successful run as coaches during our tenure. Our first year we coached our team through an undefeated regular season, only losing in the semi-finals by a heartbreaking buzzer-beater 3 point shot by the opposing team. The following year we won the championship. This was a hard act to follow and last year proved a bit more difficult. This year, however, we are looking to make a statement.
Each year there is a draft to set the each team’s roster. Many of the other coaches in the league are parents of the children playing, and their children are likely to be involved in other sports as well. Many of them know the kids they are drafting, including their size and athletic ability. For the most part, we are drafting blind from a piece of paper that only has a child’s name, grade and t-shirt size. We knew we were going to have a couple of big men because both our centers wear adult XL shirts, but that never directly correlates to their basketball playing ability.
Contrary to past years, we now have size on our side and the two big men we drafted proved to have a true presence under the hoop. In the town rec league we have required substitutions every 5 minutes, so having a skilled big man down low each period is a huge advantage that gives us a leg up on most teams. We also were able to lock in solid point guards who have excellent basketball IQ for 7th and 8th graders. Our mantra has always been the best offense is a good defense, and out hustling the other team will lead to victory. No half-court offense for our kids. Think UCONN Husky basketball circa 2000. A proven winning formula at any age: suffocating defense, fast-breaks and rapid ball movement keeps us one step ahead of the other team, showing that we are willing to leave it all on the court.
The first game is always an eye-opener, and this year was the biggest surprise. Normally there are one or two kids on the team that do the majority of the scoring, which is a testament to the talent disparity that we see as coaches. During our first game, no one scored more than 8 points and all but one of our players scored. A true team effort. They were moving the ball, making very selfless passes and playing smart as well as hard. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come in the future. With 3 games behind us and a 1-2 start, we lost both of our next games at the last second, one of which went to overtime. A couple of practices and a holiday break should give us a chance to realign ourselves and start 2015 with a win.