Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pee Wee Chronicles II

Over the past few days, we've had a rainout weekend, gotten the team jerseys (the teams are each given an NBA moniker, which is cool mostly for the teams that kids know, or perhaps you can coax them into liking), and gotten a couple more players.

* Free Agents
Melo - a 7 y.o. that can flat-out play. Already has a fairly decent layup for the age, knows how to dribble around kids (when he remembers to dribble), and gets after the ball on defense. Problem is, he's quite the ball hog. His dad recognized it, so he'll be working on him. It's frustrating for both him and the other kids that he's so much better, and sadly, John -- on vacation and due back in a week -- wasn't there to balance that disadvantage.

- Decent skills for his age. Rather on the quiet/shy side, but he plays.

* Practice
Now that we're getting good attendance regularly, not having an assistant is starting to hurt. To the dude that promised he'd do it, only to renege on me: damn you. The other day, he jokingly said how it's cool that I'm volunteering, seeing as how "Black people don't do nothing for free." My mind replied: "correction: those of us who've retained at least some of our Blackness, we've given back all the time, all throughout our history. It's you Americanized ni**ers who don't volunteer"... but I decided to keep that to myself. You've got to bring people along slowly.

In any case, to do one drill with all the kids doesn't keep enough of them engaged at the same time; and to split them up means I can't be in two places at once. Isiah's dad usually helps in that regard, but he wasn't there today, and as a parent I can't ask him to be an assistant anyways. His older son helped today, but...I'll do what I can.

Did layup lines for a while, then broke up the 8 kids into two 2-on-2 games. Naturally I could've played one 4-on-4, but we need to work our way up to that. And though days away, the prospect of them getting them to play a decent 5-on-5 is beyond daunting. But, of course, if it wasn't a challenge, there wouldn't be a point to it. Last week, I caught a bit of another coach's practice; they had small yellow cones to help run the kids thru drills. Knowing our loveable little ADD-ers can use any visual tools possible, I made a point to get some myself, and picked some up after practice today. Next time, we are definitely doing passing drills.

And I'll keep thinking and researching other way to work with the team. And wrack my brain to think of anyone else that can assist me.

Someone who still knows what it means to be Black, that is.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Pee Wee Team, Episode 1

Well, our favourite Martian has decided to get a bit more involved and coach little league basketball. Actually, it was something I thought of doing for years, but a chance conversation finally present me with the opportunity. I fathom I'll be writing quite a bit about this over the next few weeks, so a disclaimer: names, places and league will either be changed or left unspecified, to protect the little innocents. First, a short recap up to this point:

* The Draft:
Though I intended to just wet my feet as an assistant, the lack of volunteers left me with my own team, in the youngest league (ages 5-7). I should've seen it coming. After the informal 8-round draft, coaches were promised the additional 4 players to round out the roster. After weeks of waiting, it appears my team is the only that *didn't* get that. Are the Earthlings being discriminatory? Is it more basic friendship-nepotism? Probably the latter, but who knows. I could've raised a stink when I found out, but I don't have the energy for the b.s.

* The Team:
As I said above, I'll use fictitious names to keep everything anonymous.
Mason - one of two to make each of the 5 practices so far. A 2-hand thrower we've been trying to teach proper shooting mechanics. Normal (in)attentiveness for the age. Good disposition but pretty lax on D.

Isiah - you can't help but like him. He's gonna be troublems. Just turned 5, but he has the best shooting form out of anyone. Picture-perfect actually. He's small, barely bigger than the ball, which is a frustrating disadvantage for him when going against the other kids, but once he hits a growth spurt, look out. He has a smack-talking, inconquerable spirit, is willing to pass and play D. He is the dictionary definition of the prove-myself younger sibling. Did I mention he just turned 5?

Swoopes - still learning the basics of shooting with your body. Don't bribe her with Toys-R-Us talk; she'll focus on that more than what she should be doing to win the prize.

Ariza - will tuck the ball and run like a halfback at the slighest bit of pressure. A fair bit of ADD.

Lati - another push shooter. Working on that form. Not afraid to mix it up and play D.

JR - just made his first practice. Some halfback tendencies. Steps all the way to the rim even when told to shoot a FT. Humourous.

John - my PG, after his one practice. Actually, he was a free agent I ripped from another team, once his guardian (didn't quite catch the relation) asked if he could play on my team with a friend, something we're not supposed to sucuumb to. However, seeing as how the organizer totally shut me out of the free agency period, I'm breaking this rule and daring someone to tell me why I shouldn't. He's 7, but he knows basketball. Completely willing passer. Directs teammates where to go. Has a side-of-the-head set-shot motion, but it goes in. Consistently. I said, hell, he'll learn to shoot a proper jumper in due time.

Shawn - at this juncture, I'm not sure if this is indeed a child whose parent left no reachable number, or if he has actually been standing in at practices all this time without me or the parents realizing he's supposed to be there. Assuming he is for the moment; had a nasty, behind-the-head chucking motion we had to break immediately. You can tell he's been shooting -- throwing, rather -- at 10-foot rims. Hate to see adults letting/making kids do that.

Timecia - named for her timidness. You had to coax her to do anything more than stand there with the ball...and only if it was given to her. I envision 9 kids swarming at the ball and she looking at her shoes on the far end of the court.

Finally, two dropouts: one who was supposed to be my ringer, a soon-to-be 8-year-old who showed very late at the first practice, took a few shots, then left (after his dad told me he was tired coming directly from another league). Haven't heard a whisper of either since.
The second -- of a lighter persuasion -- came to the first practice, sat and observed the other kids with his dad at the far end of the court, and left after 2 minutes without speaking to anyone. We can speculate -- on the phone afterwards his mom said he liked tennis more -- but what's the point. Hey, it's their money. Or, is *was* their money.

Too bad I couldn't have both ringers. I could've had at least one on the floor directing traffic over the full 24 minutes. The organizers would have surely taken one away after a game, two tops.

After 3 terribly-attended practices, we had enough last time to play a little 2-on-2 with Mason, Isiah, JR and John. One thing became clear: we will be hearing the word "pass!" in 10-shrill voices for all 1,440 seconds of game time. The highlight was when John was chasing a loose ball, and JR reflexively cried the directive. John immediately halted chase, stomped his foot and yelled frustratingly, "I don't even HAVE the ball!"
Mason, predicably, is a black hole. Isiah was as good a teammate as he could try to be, but his size will hold him back against the other kids for a bit. We'll have to make sure to keep him encouraged.

First game is this Saturday. This should be interesting...and by interesting, I mean a riot.