In 1998, I embarked on a new journey. For the first time in my youth basketball coaching career, I was working with a 3rd grade girls basketball team. Prior to this, I had worked with boys and girls from 6th to 8th grade. Coaching a 3rd grade team was both an exciting challenge and a daunting challenge as well. Exciting in the sense that I got to mold the kids skills when they were young. Challenging in that I didn't feel I had all the necessary experience to work with the younger kids.
Well, I did the best I could for three seasons (1998 to 2000) and compiled a 21-13 overall record including spending the 1999 and 2000 seasons competing in the top division of the basketball league we were playing in. As the 2000 season completed, I stepped down from coaching as I had spent over 12 years as a volunteer coach with 7 different teams (boys/girls) in both assistant and head coaching capacities. The team also broke apart as several of the kids left St. Mary's for other schools. Another coach took over the next season as my former team merged with the kids from the upper grades for two seasons (plus their 8th grade season as an individual team again) and led them to several deserved championship runs.
My most enduring memory with this particular team is back during their first season in 1998. The team compiled an 8-0 league record but unfortunately another team had also finished 8-0. Instead of the usual 9 teams, there were ten teams and the schedule did not have my team play the other team. With both teams tied, we had to play a tiebreaker which my team lost 14-9. That send the other team to the championship game while my team was dropped into second place and awaited the winner of the 3rd/4th place playoff winner.
Even though my team was the second seed, we traveled to the opposing team's gym and engaged in a classic battle. With my team up 10-8 in the closing seconds, the other team banked home a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. My team battled hard in overtime but ultimately lost a 13-12 heartbreaker to end our season.
Why would a loss be an enduring memory? The reason is that my team was always resilient and it showed in the next two seasons. We played against the best teams the league had to offer and we competed well. Some of the other teams in the league had players that ultimately played varsity for some Catholic high schools out here and I believe one even played college basketball.
This reflection comes as I noticed on Facebook that a few of the nine players that played under me are GRADUATING from college in the coming weeks. CONGRATULATIONS to all of the ones who are graduating this year. For the others who may graduating later on or even on different track from school, best of luck!