Full-court pressing when a team’s down 19

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So today I made my debut as a youth basketball coach.

Actually, scratch that. Not entirely true.

Twenty years ago, I made my debut as a youth basketball coach. I was living in Nashville at the time, writing for The Tennessean, and—with free time on my hands—I volunteered to head a team of 11- and 12-year-old boys. Hell, I’d played a lot of hoops in my life, knew the game well, figured it’d be a chance to do something nice in the community.

It was at this time I was introduced to the phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Or, put different, it was brutal. Was  I an amazing coach? No. But the parents were brutal. Negative. Complaining. Griping. One dad wondered how his 11-year-old would ever play college hoops with my offensive philosophy (he wasn’t even much of a player). We probably wound up going 4-6, and I drifted off into the abyss.

Now, I’m back.

My son Emmett digs basketball. He’s a fourth grader, a solid athlete, an OK basketball player (Scouting report: Excellent defense, so-so handle, so-so shot, awesome hustle, good smarts). Hence, I decided to coach his team this year. The league we’re in only has two teams, but we play a fair number of games against a nearby town’s clubs.I have eight kids on the team. Two are strong, one is pretty strong, several are solid and several have never played before. Most important, they’re nice kids, good listeners, fun to be around. We named ourselves the Gatorsaurs—half a gator, half a dino. Just because … hey. Thus far we’ve had three practices. Earlier today we had our first game.

It was ugly. We lost by 21. Sloppy passing, bad defense, limited rebounding, meh coaching. I tried to play everyone relatively evenly—a tactic that serves as a great educator, but an awful route to decisive victories. I implemented a zone defense. Then, when a kid on the other team started lighting us up, we went box and one. Neither worked so well. On offense, we turned the ball over 100 times. We missed 100 more shots. Great effort. I mean, g-r-e-a-t effort. But, well, we lost badly.

One thing really bothered me: When we were down by 19, the opposing coach—who, for the record, never sat his three star players—began full-court pressing. I didn’t say anything, but I was pissed. Again, these are second, third and fourth graders. Many have never played. Your team is better. And … you press? Up 19? Really?

More than anything, I believe in sportsmanship. In effort. In decency.

Lessons that last far beyond a Sunday afternoon win.

3 thoughts on “Full-court pressing when a team’s down 19”

  1. Welcome to youth hoops.

    My experiences are bad in baseball, yet worse in basketball. I have coached youth sports for over 20 years (t-ball to head varsity high school, and a year of pro ball, too).

    The problem is $$ signs. All of their kids are going to be scholarship athletes, and any move you make hinder that. Accordingly, any coach coaching against you isn’t doing their job if their players don’t fill the stat sheets and the coaches themselves don’t build their elementary school resume.

    It is comical in that virtually none of these coaches or parents know not only the qualification to get a scholarship, but the true ability needed.

    The best part of all of this is that so many parents are paying $1000’s of dollars to live this pipe dream and live vicariously through their children.

    When will parents realize that 1% of high school athletes get a scholarship? All that money they are spending on private lessons and private travel teams could be saving for college.

    Just some thoughts from a high school AD…

  2. The way to survive youth coaching is to learn not to get pissed. That way, you can appreciate the highs and fun of being able to pass down your love of a game to a group of kids. Yeah, I know, “don’t get pissed” sounds as effective as telling the obese to “just put down the fork.” So maybe I should amend that to “don’t get pissed in front of the kids or parents.” Then when you get home, scream into a pillow.

  3. Jeff your league allows 4th graders to press? That is absurd. In my son’s league (7th and 8th grade) they can only press in the 4th quarter.

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