People, Not Players

Coaching a girl's basketball team
As some of you already know I have had the opportunity to coach basketball at H.D. Stafford. It started out as an assistant coaching position with a teacher who works at the school. We started hosting practices and as the numbers of grade six girls kept pouring in, it became evident that I would be coaching a team on my own. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the responsibility of thirteen girls - taking them to games, coaching them, and helping them develop character in the face of a loss. But then there it was, game day.

As I loaded the girls on the bus they were excited to go to Yorkson Creek Middle School for their game. For many of these girls, it was the very first basketball game they had played outside of gym class. Little did they know it was the very first basketball game I had coached outside of basketball camps. I really wasn’t sure how the girls would play under pressure and unfortunately the first game was very discouraging for them. They were out-matched and just trying to get used to playing against people they didn’t know. But every time they scored a basket, the bench erupted in cheers. Every point they got sounded like they had won the game. It was awesome to see the girls come around each other in excitement. I learned about myself during the game as I really got into it. Coaching the girls, helping them on the court. It was frustrating, exciting, and fun all at the same time.

As the second game rolled around, they got ready on the court again. They fought a good fight. They scored 26 points, which was more than double the last game. The game ended with us down by two points. The girls were discouraged. I had been in that place so many times during the years I played basketball. These were the moments I coached for. Not the huge wins and happy endings but for character building. I thought back to what I had needed to hear when we lost our games. I told the girls that it wasn’t all about the end result. It was the process. They had significantly improved from the last game, played their hardest and had done really well. Their defence drastically improved and they should be proud of the way they played.

I was able to individually speak into these girl’s lives as they played. Avery had taken shot after shot in the game but none of them had gone in. I remember those games no matter how much you shot, the hoop had it out for you. Nothing would go in. After the game, I called her over and the first thing she said is “Am I in trouble?” I said no, I just wanted to tell you that you took a lot of shots today and I know that they hadn’t made it in but I want you to keep shooting just like that because they will go in over time. A smile spread across her face. She knows someone believes in her and that’s what she really needed. Even if she tries her best and still fails, someone is behind her, still cheering her on. I have several stories like that from the games. I coach not to make better basketball players but to make better people.

- Rachel Tapp


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