I have always been a basketball guy. Everything growing up in the early to mid 80's were about Dr. J and the Sixers for me. I'd hook up my grandparents black and white tv in the garage, crank the volume so I could hear Dick Stockton with the play-by-play on CBS and fire jumpshots at the rim with no net that was painted a aqua blue to match the trim of their house. Through the years some of my favorite moments were basketball related in my small hometown of Lake Park.
Playing games in the old gym affectionately known as "The Pit" where there were more pitfalls and dangers, it is amazing to me that to my knowledge there were never any knee injuries. I think we might have been the last school in Minnesota to switch from the fan backboards to square ones but that small cracker jack gym got hot and got loud and the Parkers (yeah, clever name I know) won more games there than they lost.
Even though I had dreams of playing high school basketball, I had two things going against me. I didn't play a lick of defense and I didn't work hard. During my junior season, I had a heated discussion with my coach who told me that "some guys are practice players". While I don't necessarily agree with his tact of trying to get the most out of everyone, I really didn't give him much to work with. I quit the team which is something I deeply regret to this day. More on that in a minute.
Fast forward 20 years and my love for the game hasn't changed. As a dad of a son who loves the game, I coached him from first grade through sixth grade traveling. It was constantly basketball at our house which for me was great, but for him there was never an escape.
In addition, I have had the tremendous opportunity to coach for the MN Hustle in the spring. When I started coaching for them, I told Todd Treml and Mike Resnick who co-own the organization that I wanted to coach a girls team. I coached a U14 team the first year, then last year utilized many of the relationships I built to get many of the players back as sophomores. From a coaching perspective, my sole goal was to get all 10 girls ready for varsity basketball. I can't begin to find words to describe the support that I have from the parents of this team. I would do anything to help all of the girls on my team and truly believe that they will all go on to do great things in life.
I have also seen the ugly opposite side. I witnessed the father of a son arguing with a coach about his perceived lack of playing time. As the coach tried to defuse the situation and walk away, the father sucker punched the coach knocking him out cold. The ugly side of the game rears its head from time to time in all sports and it is easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. I know, I have been there. Not from a physical perspective, but I have gotten into many arguments with officials and even jawed with opposing coaches. Not exactly proud moments that I care to brag about. At one point or another, I'm sure my kid has been embarrassed by my lack of self-control, and really I can't say that I blame him.
It's funny because I have never had a conversation with any of his coaches about his playing time or where he stands in the pecking order. Sure, I have thanked them for working with him and giving him an opportunity, but that isn't the same as trying to maneuver their kids into more playing time. I have watched and have heard from coaches that I know and respect that one of the biggest pet peeves is to have parents trying to figure things out for their kids. Life is about communication and my view is if a player has a question with why they aren't seeing more minutes, or what they can do to improve their games that is a discussion they need to have with the coach.
I often think about what my coach would have said if my parents or grandparents would have confronted him about why I didn't get any playing time. I would have been embarrassed at the answer he would have given. All parents see is the games. They don't see how a player practices or the attitude they bring to the gym daily.
For the longest time, I felt the need to fight for my kid and his status. I finally came to the realization that he doesn't need me to realize his dreams, he just needs me to support him as he travels his own path.
I truly hope that other parents who struggle with the same things are able to realize this because it is eye opening and amazing. I wish I had realized this a few years earlier, not for me, but for him. It may have allowed him to enjoy the game even more.