Court is in session

Michael is in three basketball leagues this year. I'm coaching him in one league that plays its first game this season.

I'm also coaching Ben's team this year again. His first game is this week as well.

I'm a little nervous. As a coach, I want the kids to have fun. I want them coming away feeling like they played well and did something good, win or lose.

OK, I'll admit, I want them to win. I really don't want them to get blown out. I've been on both sides of a blowout as a coach. Part of me is afraid the kids will somehow hate the game if they get routed.

So, my stomach will be in knots Wednesday and Thursday when the boys' teams open their seasons. I'm not so worried about Ben's first/second grade team -- the roster is split between second-graders who know what they are doing and first graders who are eager. After coaching 1/2 teams the last two years, I know what to expect from the competition and know we'll hold up well.

However, Michael's 3/4 team is almost all third-graders, and we missed a practice that was snowed out last week. I think I might end up relying upon Michael too much, mostly because I know his skills. I bring different expectations for him when he's playing than for other kids, even Ben, and even when I'm not coaching him. It's probably not fair, and it's probably borne from the fact he's a much better athlete than I was at his age, and it drives me crazy when he gets unfocused -- because I was always the skinny, small uncoordinated kid no matter how hard I focused..

I tell Michael and Ben, as well as the kids I coach, that I will never get mad at them for not making a play if at least they tried (I do get irritated if they are goofing off or not listening). But I watch Michael make a bad decision on the court (he's passing without looking to where he's passing to lately) or not paying attention and it drives me a little nuts. I don't want to become one of those fathers who criticize their sons' athletic mistakes, and I don't think I will. I want him to do well, and sometimes, I can't help but point out how he could have done better. It's a fine line. I know how to be on the right side of that line with every other kid, but I'm afraid occasionally skirting it (but not yet going over it) with Michael.

Back to our season openers: I'm really happy both Ben and Michael have friends on their teams. And I'm humbled that on both teams, we have players I coached last year and whose parents trusted me enough to let me coach their kids again. I have never tried to assemble all-star teams, but rather, teams I and my kids know well. We have two teams like that this year. We might not win every game, but at least I know, I'm lucky to have two good rosters, and by good, I don't mean skill-wise.


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