Saturday, December 18, 2010

Coaching Confessions

As the daughter of a basketball coach, I was raised in a gym. I am at home in a gym. I am alive in a gym. I love this place. I love the sounds heard only in here. I love the cacophony of squeaking sneakers, the screech of skin sliding across the wood floor, the grunts and wails as bodies collide, the thundering stampeding of footsteps, the bounce of the ball, the hoots and hollers from the crowd, the sweet swish of the net, the loud blast of the buzzer, and the piercing shrieks of referee whistles and of angry coaches. I love it all.

And it's a good thing I love it so much since I've spent 36 hours this past week in the gym. Between practices, shoot-arounds, walk-throughs, scouting, and playing in the tournament we are hosting, I've spent more time in the gym more than I have in my bed. But I'm not complaining. I love it here. Sure, I may refer to it as my "hell week" and I may have bags under my eyes, but I'm doing what I love in a place I love. However, I do have some confessions.

Coaching Confessions Part 1
(because I'm sure there will be many more throughout the season)

1) I was late to practice. This will come as no surprise to my colleagues since I'm often ducking into meetings 10 minutes late, but I'm never late to practice. I was annoyed and confused when I walked in the gym and the lights were still off and the girls weren't warming up. However, they were making me very proud. Here's what they were up to:

Youtube clip they posted. The lil punks.

2) I continued the scaring war. I usually stay after practice to rebound for our shooter and have hidden in different spots in the locker room to scare her when she comes out. It's such a satisfying feeling to watch her jump, scream and nearly fall to the floor. However, the other day I planned an elaborate scare that went awry. I hid outside and waited behind the door she typically exits from. I waited for 10 minutes. The suspense built as I twiddled my thumbs waiting. I was going to get her good. But then she came out the other door and saw me standing and waiting like a fool. I felt very silly. And then I lied and told her I had only been waiting for 3 minutes. I couldn't let her know just how pathetic I actually am.

3) I have yelled at girls with a lisp. The orthodontist said I'd have a lisp for a day or two as I adjusted to Invisalign. It's been a month. Truth be told, I rather like my lisp. I think it adds character. But students giggle as I read aloud and my players tease me mercilessly when I'm yelling at them and they hear the lisp. Even I had to stop and laugh when I was yelling at Kristen but accidentally called her Christian.

4) I have a dirty mouth. It's not what you think. I'm not one of those coaches that swears at her players. However, I've found no adequate substitute for the phrase "half ass." And that is often how they play. But "half butt" makes no sense and I've tried screaming, "You're playing lackadaisically!" but it truly does not have the same effect. I once yelled, "You're playing hard as you should be." They knew I was trying not to say "ass" and they laughed at me. But I was most disappointed in myself last night. It was a super intense game against a rival school and one of our best players fouled out. And I said shit. Not super loud but loud enough for my parents to hear who were sitting a few rows up from me. Loud enough for my Athletic Director to hear who was sitting right behind me. Loud enough for me to feel ashamed. I coach girls who aren't allowed to say "pissed" or "crap" and who say I'm a bad influence on them since I often use the phrase, "don't crap your pants." So you can see why I'd feel so awful about saying "shit" in front of them AND their parents. However, when I asked my parents if they heard, my own mom, whom I was most concerned about since she cringes when I say "butt", offered me grace and said, "We're all human." I think she just felt bad that we lost:)

5) I am a bit of a yeller and can be a bit obnoxious about it. This is what usually scares people who know me only as teacher, friend, or family member and have never seen me coach. The yelling scares some people. I see it in their eyes. I see shock and horror and genuine fear. It makes me feel rather beastly. My own nephew cowered in fear last year when he sat behind our bench. My roommate was shocked and probably a little scared to get on my bad side. My British friend, Tom, visited last year and admitted after the game that he was a bit "terrified" of me. Terrified. If you've seen my dad or my high school coach in action, you'd think I'm tame. I don't throw chairs, veins rarely bulge from my neck and forehead, but I do raise my voice... just a little. I didn't realize just how obnoxious I am until we watched game tape and my own voice made my ears bleed. It's a necessity though. It makes my girls play harder and smarter. When I missed the first part of a game because I was coming from a wedding and was stuck in traffic, the girls played "half ass." One girl even said, "Coach, I needed you here to yell at me. I was playing like a freshman." I feel bad sometimes though and last night at half time I explained that I love them and am only yelling to make them go harder. I know- it's a weird way to express my love to scream, "Catch the freakin ball!" But nevertheless, it is an expression of my love.

6) I occasionally sass the refs. I've never gotten a T, wait- maybe I did my first year but I'm sure I didn't deserve it. However, I've often been told to sit and remain in my "coaching box" since I tend to pace like a caged animal. And sometimes I sass the refs. While my girls can always hear me screaming directions to them, the refs often don't hear me requesting a timeout even though I'm literally SCREAMING, "Time out!!!" This happened last week. I must have screamed it about 12 times. No exaggeration. When he finally called it, he came over and said, "I had to wait till your team had possession of the ball to call the timeout." My humble, Christlike response?

"We had possession when I called timeout the first 5 times. That's why the entire gym is laughing at you right now." And I whipped my hair around and turned back to the huddle of now-giggling girls.

Truthfully, the crowd was laughing at me and my hysterical screams, but I didn't care. Coaching definitely brings out a different side of me.

7) I am not always very professional. My incredible shooter is getting recruited by some top schools so I get a lot of calls from college coaches. A few weeks ago, I was waiting for a call from a dear friend living in Spain. She called during my prep period, right as I was entering the Chick-fila drive through. I was so excited to talk to her that when I saw the unfamiliar number, I answered the phone in my best Mrs. Doubtfire voice and yelled, "Hell-ooooooooooo!!!!" Pause. " this coach Hardeman?"

My thought process: "Oh crap. This is definitely not Christy. How do I play this off?"

I cleared my voice and cringed as I said, "Yes? May I ask who is calling?"

"So and so from Harvard. I'm calling about Kari."

Harvard. It couldn't be some state school. Harvard called recruiting Kari and I sounded like a total buffoon. She was gracious and pretended like I hadn't made a fool of myself and went on a long spiel about why they were interested in Kari. Of course I had to interrupt her to say, "Can I get the number 5 with a lemonade?" Luckily, Kari doesn't want to go to Harvard.

I also showed my classy professionalism this week when I went to scout a game in my pjs. I was proud of myself for remembering the video camera which I had forgotten when I went to tape a game the week before. I was exhausted and it was rainy and I figured no one would recognize me. But then I walked in the gym and some coach definitely did recognize me because he said, "Hey Coach, how's your team doing?" What the? How on earth do you know I am a coach? I look like a homeless woman right now. In hindsight, I realized he must have known me from the "coaching world." Lesson learned- bring a video camera but don't look like a bum when scouting games.

8) I don't always know information I should about our team. So my players know our record better than I do- big whoop. I remember as a high school player reading the paper all the time to see my name and read about our team. I don't even get the paper now. (perhaps that's why I didn't know about the coal miners until they were released) My perspectives have changed since high school and I know how we played each night- I don't need to read the thoughts of some newspaper guy about my team. A player asked if I saw the new rankings in the paper and then laughed when I said I don't get the paper and didn't care about it. "Coach, I feel like I know more about our team than you do." Whatever kid, I know the important stuff. And when there is a really ridiculous picture of you in the paper, someone will tell me about it. And I'll find that picture have it made into a fridge magnet like I did with the one from last year where you look like you have cleft palate. I laugh at her every morning when I open the freezer to get my eggos.
9) My girls are a little too comfortable with me. You might doubt this after I've told you that I scream at them but they LOVE to try to make me awkward. One girl in particular has the ability of making me blush easily. She once picked me up after a game to show me how strong she was. She also likes to try to give me the "good game" butt tap on occasion just to irritate me. Last week was the worst. The coach of the host school was super chatty and happened to be a young guy. Every time I talked to him the girls would huddle and giggle. This particular girl even walked right up to us when we were talking and took a picture. Talk about awkward.

10) I can get a tad fired up when we play poorly. Just a tad. Yesterday I might have slammed some doors at half time. And I may have broken some heels from stomping my feet so hard. And okay, so maybe I punched a car after our loss. But I was walking in the pouring rain without an umbrella and they drove right in front of me slowly and they needed to know that it was very rude. And sure, a parent tried to hug me after the game and I denied her hug and said, "Not now." Really though- I am not a hugger and definitely do not feel like hugging after a loss.

However, it was hard to angry tonight even though we were playing terrible. I struggled to get angry because Hudson and Vander sat behind the bench. Huddy kept saying, "Katie, Katie, Katie" until I would smile at him. And then Vander kept trying to have a conversation with me.

Vander: "Katie- did you know I'm going to have a ninja turtle party?"

Me: "Very cool. Nia!!! Watch the weakside!!!"

Vander: "Shredder's coming to it."

Me: "No way. Box out Lianna!!!!"

These boys are great reminders that it is just a game. Yes, I will always be intense but I can always laugh off a loss when I see their smiling faces.

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