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Life in the bleachers
3/26/2014 9:12:57 AM

By Chad Kimberley
Splash Column

The view is different from the bleachers. 

Granted I was at a junior high girls basketball game and sitting only a dozen or so feet from my normal spot on the bench as a head coach. But from my perspective, those twelve feet seemed as far away as a last-second, half-court heave.

After a decade of coaching young men and women, I am experiencing my first year as a parent of a basketball player. For years I would joke with fellow coaches that coaching is phenomenal but for the parents; now I was one of them. (Although I can say with full integrity I've never had major problems with any parents.)

As I settled in for my first game as a parent, I was going through the laundry list of the things I would hope a parent would never do to me as the coach. I was here to cheer on my daughter, not coach her. I would support all the girls equally and not only signal out my kid. I would trust and believe the coach knows what he is doing and his players better than me. I would not bark at officials or believe my daughter was always fouled and never the fouler. 

Basketball is all about statistics, and I would say I shot about 80 percent on the game. I did a solid job of cheering on my daughter, especially as she made her first shot attempt from the floor. I tried to cheer for all the girls but quickly realized I needed to learn some names. I didn't bark at a single official as the game was refereed by a couple of high school students. And I didn't second-guess the coach or question his strategy. 

But I was far from perfect. I couldn't help coaching. I tried to get her to not dribble into the coffin corner.  I encouraged her to move her feet on defense. I gently suggested she look inside to the post players. 

I'll admit it-life in the bleachers is tough for me. 

A coach can, in many respects, control the action on the floor and bench. I can substitute when I see a player tiring or struggling. I can use timeouts to control the tempo of the game. I can talk to the officials and encourage them to notice certain things I see happening on the floor. 

As a parent I can cheer and, well, that is about it. But I also realized there are some great advantages of being the parent instead of the coach.

After the game was over, I only worried about my daughter and not the emotional state of a dozen other girls. I didn't worry about creating the next day's practice plan but only thought about little things I could do to help my daughter work on her game. And I was immediately ready for dinner versus feeling sick to my stomach based on the outcome or so pumped over a win that eating wasn't even on my radar. 

Now don't get me wrong, I am not ready to give up my seat on the bench with the Freeman Scotties girls basketball team. In fact, since our season ended in Regionals a few weeks back, I have already been working hard on summer plans, doodling up new sets and plays, and imagining what starting line-ups could look like next season. 

But I realize this season of being a fan might just be the best thing for me as a coach.

Watching these young girls learn the game of basketball helped me remember one of the aspects I love most-teaching. Observing my daughter's coach instruct and joke with the girls reminded me of how enjoyable it is building relationships with my players. Witnessing a girl score her first basket and give a jump of elation and a fist pump of joy reminded me that the little moments need to be celebrated and fun needs to be at the center of what we do. 

As a basketball coach, I have kept my expectations of those involved pretty simple: let the players play, let the coaches coach, and let the parents parent. And for this season in the bleachers, I am going to cheer on my daughter and her friends as they play. I am going to encourage the coach and thank him for giving his time to my kid. And I am going to tell my daughter how proud I am of her, win or lose. 

Life in the bleachers might not be too bad after all.

Chad Kimberley lives in Liberty Lake. He is a local teacher and coach.

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