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Coaching HS Boys as a Young Woman

Coaching HS Boys as a Young Woman

 
By:  Mission Team October 12, 2020
#AmazingNation, #Failure, #Jesus, #Struggle, #Winning

As a kid, I grew up playing basketball in my backyard almost every day. Between playing “Around the World” with my older brother (and losing every time) and playing 1-on-1 with my next door neighbor, basketball became part of my identity. Fast forward many years, I injured my foot as a junior in High School which ended my athletic career in basketball and any other sport. I entered my young adult life, not just missing basketball, but losing a part of my identity. The closest thing I came to being on a basketball team again was watching the Cleveland Cavs win the NBA Finals in 2016 or random pick-up games with friends.


This past year, without any real interview, I was asked to coach basketball. I grew up with my dad coaching, my brother was currently coaching, so I thought “Why not?”. Just like that, I became a basketball coach. Not just any coach, a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Basketball coach. Not just a CYO coach, but a Varsity Boys coach - almost all of which went to a public school and had little-to-no faith at all. I was excited and anxious to lead a team in a way I never had before. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but even more so I knew God was going to do a lot more than I would ever see.

 

Learn the Faith, Play Hard, Win Everyday!
“Your program must have an overriding purpose that is clearly visible and which teaches lessons beyond winning.” - Don Meyer, award-winning basketball coach

The day before the tryouts I journaled: “Most of all, my prayer is I can encourage these boys and build them up as men of God. I pray that I don’t lead with insecurities or fear, but rather with courage and confidence, so these boys will be formed on and off the court.” I was excited to be coaching with the opportunity to bring faith into the game. As a kid, I don’t remember ever being formed in who I was as a person when I played basketball. Practices consisted of drills, running plays, and scrimmaging; if I were honest, we goofed off more than played basketball. I wanted this team to be different. I wanted to coach a team that was respectful, worked hard, but most of all was a team - so that as they grew as young men they would know that these lessons could go much further than just a basketball court.


In the practices leading up to the first game, it was clear that my team was there to play basketball and faith wasn’t a concept that was even on their radar. I couldn’t shove Jesus down their throats, I needed to plant seeds. A few days before the first game, I passed out a piece of paper to each player and asked them to anonymously write down one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced in their life. Some shared about their dad having a transplant, others mentioned bullying, and others mentioned struggles within their families or at school.


That’s who you win for.


As a coach, I hoped that for the few months I would be with those boys, they would know that life is not about them, it’s about others. I had them write down those challenges so that before every single game, their teammate would read that challenge and WIN for what was written. Each game during the season became an offering for the challenges that their teammate faced.

 

You need a Team

“I think team first. It allows me to succeed and it allows my team to succeed.”
- LeBron James, NBA Player and attributed as being one of the GOAT


At one point in the middle of the season, we had a 2 week stretch of only practices. The boys were getting distracted in the winter months and since we were on a losing streak, they chose to goof off more often than not. I sought advice from different men in my life to see what the best way to change things up a little bit would be. Next, I started practice, no basketball, just us. We spread out and I led the young men in a HIIT style workout. I pushed them hard physically, while I did my best to encourage them verbally. I wanted them to know that I believed in them as men and that they were strong. In the January cold at 9 pm in central New York, I had them push my Honda-CRV in the parking lot. When they came inside I asked them why I just ran practice that way and one of the Captains said “We’re going to go through harder things in life, and we need other people to help us through.”


Exactly.

 
As a coach, I couldn’t have been more encouraged. The seeds were being planted and I was excited to watch them grow in some of those boys. The season was only a few short months, but for those months I remembered the way that God loved me through basketball for so many years. Just like as a kid who played basketball, there were challenges throughout the season - moments where the boys were disrespectful, bullying on the team, heck at an away game I was sexually harassed and then the authority in the league didn’t do anything. The challenges I faced as a woman coach in a boys league were expected and anticipated in many ways. However, with each challenge I was able to rise as a woman and as a coach. God was loving me through basketball again, even if there were challenges, and I believe that He fulfilled the prayer I had all along: to inspire those young boys to be great men.

“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.”
- Kobe Bryant



About the Author Mission TeamThe mission team is made up of writers within the HN team who serve for a time with our ministry to Awaken the World to the Power of God's Love. Through their efforts, their vision of making a world where no one suffers alone is an encouragement to many hurting people of all ages. 


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