Having acknowledge where it was that I felt my practice had been over the last week or so I started our pre-game apologising to the players and congratulating them on continuing to fight. Today was the start of a three game swing in seven days and the beginning of the end of the season. We had three tough opponents, some unfinished business and a desire to continue to improve. I revelled in the sound of our position, enjoying the fact that the players felt we had work still to do. However, I wasn’t sure just how far my confidence extended in the depth of meaning attached to their proclamations. When I looked at the players I saw tired eyes, visions of summer and ‘pick up’ as oppose to determination, willingness and a persistence that would see them through the final two weeks. However, I have been known to be wrong on a number of occasions and was happy to revisit this position again.
Our start was a mixed bag of really good and really poor, we executed well, moving the ball and taking what was on offer. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite finish, missing lay up after short jumper, and/or turning the ball over on the catch and losing the opportunity to shoot! I applauded the effort and movement but then grumbled at the inefficiency and lack of focus. To add to our woes, we were being officiated by a less than diligent individual, his calls screamed yesterday’s game and the provision of a blurred sense of power that sought to detract from the ethos of youth sport. We began to question calls, throw our hands in the air and lower our heads.
Having called a timeout I gathered the players in and went about the task of reciting life’s difficulties, perceptions and resilience. I looked each player in the eye and purposely expressed my faith and believe in who we are and what it was we were trying to do. We agreed to adopt the Madagascan code – ‘just smile and wave boys, just smile and wave’ – and would no longer suffer the injustice of a forgotten person desperate to assert some semblance of power.
I felt better and continued to be positive throughout the game, for the most part anyway. I praised our effectiveness, questioned our mistakes and offered reassurances to players on the bench. In fact, I felt more in control of my coach self, less emotionally responsive to the game and more proactive to what we wanted to achieve. It was a strenuous day, perhaps because I was mindful and guarded in my behaviour, determined to allow the players time and space to be themselves, to respond and support without being overly instructional.
I left the game happy that we had put up a good performance and that had led to us being in a position to be who we wanted to be. Winning was a secondary outcome for me, today we had proved that we can play and that we can play together. However, as I exited the venue I was mindful of my behaviour towards the referee, I hadn’t said anything to him, displayed decent or even questioned but one of his calls. This being said, who would question his behaviour, his inability to officiate with balance and fairness? I was pleased that I had continued to manage my behaviour, that I had not challenged the referee, but was this coaching? His behaviour was perhaps a question above my pay grade, but nevertheless an important one. One that I believe I had been asking myself of the various authorities that had littered my life and caused me to continually reflect on whom I was and whom self is!!