999 but no emergency

As I pulled the car around the somewhat sharp turn and on to the broken tarmac that was labelled public car park, my mileage clock registered 90,000, it was the end of my usual 90 mile journey, and I was about to start my 90 minute expedition with 17 young basketball minds. I am sure a different person would read something in to these numbers, possibly some significance to the number 9? perhaps the nine worlds of norse mythology that interact in a multitude of ways, sharing time and space in a battle for supremacy?

My walk in to the sports hall was less than Thor-like, I had been on my feet a great deal this week, coaching, teaching and lecturing, and the consequence was a very sore ankle! As I entered the space where we usually practiced I could see the players moving through a series of drills alongside the University team. I sat and watched for ten minutes, enjoying the opportunity to observe from a far and to appraise the movement and shapes created by my players. Before returning to our practice agenda, the Director of Coaching for the club shared a few thoughts and ideas with the players. He highlighted their practice behaviours, level of intensity and overall approach to getting better. I was thankful for the message, it was one I had been delivering throughout the year, yet his approach was such that it just ‘cut’ straight to home.

We got into some full court stuff, revisiting some of our keys for the weekend and attempting to polish our understanding of Who We Are! The energy levels were high, players, for the most part, were engaged and focused. There was a great deal more talking than usual, perhaps we had crossed through a portal and into one of the nine realms? I was pretty sure we hadn’t moved out of West Yorkshire, but clearly we had matured in that moment. It was a pleasing sight to see, the players were challenging, questioning and supporting each other. I attempted to fuel this interaction further by posing a few questions, however, my attempts, more often than not, amounted to merely the provision of answers, either in the form of another question or as a demonstration of what it was we were looking for.

Having spent all week exploring questioning, listening to Blogs on the subject and applying my new found knowledge to my teaching, I was somewhat frustrated at my seemingly lack of ability within the field of question construction. The 94-feet of hard wood (the number 9 again!!) appeared to rendered me, at times, a novice. I repeatedly reverted to my default position. It was a constant battle, one that I was currently losing, yet was determined to overcome in favour of a questioning methodology that would lead to young thinking minds.

Our time was up, I left the sports hall and walked slowly back to my car alongside players and parents. We shared a few laughs, exchanged ideas and final details in preparation for our third consecutive double-header weekend, and wished each other a safe journey home. In the car I began to consider excellence, what did it look like? Would I be able to promote the pursuit of excellence in these 17 young men? I wanted so much for them and we had reached a point in the season where there seemed to be only one acceptable outcome. The pressure was certainly emanating from the club, some of the players thought that they knew what they wanted for us, yet I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to verbally express what everybody was thinking, we have seven games remaining, four of which are going to be very difficult games.

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