More Than Basketball

The Mt. Baker High School boy’s basketball season recently came to a conclusion. Years ago, I had told myself I would never coach high school sports again, at least while my daughter was young. I coached high school track, cross country, and girls’ basketball. While I enjoyed the coaching piece, the time commitment had me away from home too much. I switched to coaching junior high cross country and my daughter’s basketball team and assumed that would be that. Well, I guess this is why you never say never because, in November, I found myself back in a high school program.

I knew I was biting off a huge time commitment, and I would be facing months of time away from my family, being tired, and not having enough hours in the day to get everything done. I also knew saying no to this opportunity was not an option. Coaching this team felt like it was twenty years in the making. My friend had gotten the head coaching position and had asked, well really told, me that I would be one of his assistants. We had gotten into coaching together in our early twenties when we began coaching his nephew in youth basketball and baseball. During those early seasons on the court, we talked about how cool it would be to coach a high school program together. With that opportunity now in front of us, we had to take it.

In our twenties, the thought of coaching a high school team was all about basketball. We would teach the fundamentals, offensive schemes, and have lockdown defense. It would be basketball, basketball, basketball, and we could not fathom anything more fun. While this season did consist of a lot of basketball, that was not what this season was all about. More than any other season I have ever been a part of, this season was about something more. This season was about learning. It was about putting morals first. It was about connecting with the kids and helping them prepare for the rest of their life. It was about having fun and bringing joy to the game of basketball.

It is only with hindsight that the meaning of this season truly comes to light. Amid some unexpected challenges and trying to win basketball games, there were moments that stood out. The first thing I noticed was what a kind group of humans these high school boys were. They cared about each other, their opponents, and, eventually, their coaches. They were hilarious, often making me laugh out loud. While we did not win the most games, I would be shocked if there was another team having as much fun. The second moment was when one of the players brought the coaching staff Native American blankets. It is in his Native American tradition to give a gift as thanks. This gift came out of the blue, surprising all of the coaches. We had no idea we were having such an impact and were surprised that a teenage boy could be so thoughtful. The third moment was on senior night. The seniors wrote us a letter that the announcer read. They thanked us for coaching and expressed their understanding of the challenges we had faced. They showed their unconditional support, which was more than we could have ever asked for.

As I slowly separate from this season and we begin planning for the next, what stands out is that when we start doing something, we don’t always understand why. We think we know, but until we are in it, or even past it, the true meaning may be waiting to reveal itself. This season of basketball is a good reminder to go into things with an open mind. The purpose may be different and more important than you think. Let the purpose of your actions reveal itself instead of forcing what you think should happen. The results may be far more impactful than you imagined.

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