Over the course of our lifetimes, we sometimes decide to change careers and in some cases the decision is made for us. Mine is such a case but I will not get into those details here. What I want to discuss in this post is about the power of believing. I have always been a big fan of sports so when my children took a liking to sports competition I was literally in heaven.
I have always wanted to coach my own children in organized sports and with the Jerry Sandusky’s of the world rising up almost everyday it looks like that decision has been made for me as well. I can’t say where (what state) and I can’t say when (what year of my oldest son’s life) but I promise you that I will be his coach (most likely basketball…his favorite…right now).
I was actually introduced to coaching years ago when my daughter was younger and we lived in the DC area. She joined a local basketball team with her friend and neighbor and her mother decided to join the team as the assistant coach. We were expecting our second child so her mother and I agreed that we should pay as much attention to her and her activities before our new family member arrived later next year.
My daughter was blessed with a very good coach that understood the game but also emphasized that all of the girls have fun while competing. The team lost just two game during the entire regular season. They were two, close, heart breaking loses to the same team. That team went undefeated that year and became our chief rival. They had a tough coach whose regular job was a FBI field agent. The rival team’s best player was his daughter and no one in the league could defend her. She played at a different level and her father barked at her from start to finish every game.
My daughter found it tough to play with her dad in the stands and her mother on the sidelines each game but she pushed through and had some stellar performances. In fact, she was girl who would always defended the other team’s best player and she really shined when she executed the “freeze.”
Freeze was the defensive play that her mom would occasionally yell out during tough stretches of the ball game. Simply stated if your man scored while the “freeze” was in effect, you had to come out of the game. Believe it or not, that simple concept worked almost every time when the girls needed to make a comeback. I just shook my head in the stands and smiled at the simplicity of children playing a game with that tiny threat of having to hit the pines.
The season flew by quickly and the playoffs were upon us. Our team finished 2nd behind their chief rival who, of course, never lost a game during the regular season. We knew in order to win it all we would have to face them and win this time. The playoff format was a Round Robin; which means you play everyone at least once and you are not eliminated until you have lost twice. What that meant was our girls would have to beat a team that they never had at least once and probably twice…a daunting task to say the least.
The girls got off to a great start and beat every team that they faced until they came upon their rival. The assistant coach, my spouse, had to go to a nearby army base for some additional training for her job so I was asked to stand in for her. Boy was I nervous. The know-it-all dad from the stands was now going to be pacing the sidelines coaching against the undefeated favorites.
I decided that I had to be singularly focused with one message that did not conflict with the head coach’s game plan. I had to get those girls to believe they could win against a foe that had always beat them. At every stoppage of the clock I waited for the head coach to say what he needed to say and then I said, “you are going to win this game.” I got mostly crazy looks at first, even from my daughter. Why? Because they did not believe they could win.
With their belief system where it was, they were beaten from the opening tap but I never gave up on trying to convince them otherwise. We kept it close but in the end we had been dealt our 3rd loss of the season and to the same team. Now we were one game from elimination and there was more bad news. We were headed to Vail that weekend for a family ski vacation and there was a game scheduled. Without the team at full strength we were vulnerable for our second loss and elimination from the tourney. This was going to be one tense vacation. We held our breath until we got the call…victory. Next up, our hated rival.
As luck would have it, I was asked to coach in place of my spouse once again. This time I was determined get the W for the girls. The girls came out with a fire in their eyes I had not seen in some time and it showed in their performance and on the scoreboard. By halftime we were down just a couple of points so we were confident that we could beat this team finally. I was up to my same trick as before in getting the girls to believe that they were the better team this day. I ended every time out with the same phrase, “you will win this game.”
Then it happened late in the 4th quarter. The game was tied with two or three minutes to play. It was our ball and our last timeout and the head coach gave a spirited talk about how this game was different and we were going to win it and right before we broke I said it again. “You will win this game.” Our best player looked right at me and as our eyes met she said, “you’re right coach, we are gonna win this thing.” I was shocked. She called me coach. I was honored and I knew we were going to finish them.
I got animated after every play, every score and every turnover and the rival coach wanted me tossed by the refs. We scored, we turned them over and scored again and they collapsed under the immense pressure of the moment. The final buzzer sounded and we were victorious. I hugged every girl and thanked them for letting me coach them. It was an unbelievable experience but the work was not finished. In order for us to be the champs we had to beat them again. But now we believed!
Unfortunately, I could not attend the championship game because of a previously scheduled engagement out on the west coast. I hated that I had to miss what I knew would be another great performance but I had to honor my prior commitment. I called the team to find out the results and learned something that made my jaw drop. Not only did our team win, but they never trailed in the entire 40 minutes. The rival coach fell apart in the second half and got numerous technical fouls. The parents of the rival squad even turned on him. From all accounts it turned into a real ugly scene.
Whatever you believe, you can achieve. That is not just a cliché but the truth. My daughter would give up basketball for good two seasons later. See, she won two championships with that head coach but she also suffered through two winless seasons which bracketed the championships. Can you imagine, she either the whole thing or didn’t win a game? Too extreme for even her temperament.
As for me, I can’t wait for the day that I can coach my boys in their sport(s) of choice. Right now I am getting prepared for what I expect to be a charmed life…being a head coach. I am doing it for me and I am doing it for them. I am doing it to keep them as safe from predators as I can and I am doing it to give them the best chance to be champions. I believe that I can be a great coach and that is most of the battle my friends…believing!