Every group we coach gives us something to talk about for future years. The Class of ’10 (current 8th graders) will leave us with countless examples later in the year. But the 6th and 7th graders on this JV team have something special that we’ll be talking about for a long time.
They first played last year, as 6th graders, on our first Neuqua Valley team. This was a 7th grade team, and against not just 7th graders, but travel team 7th graders. For those unfamiliar with girls basketball, that’s like David taking on Goliath. But there is no cute underdogs-can-win story here. They lost all 20 games, and did so pretty brutally. It wasn’t rare to have the scoreboard turned off or have other coaches forbid their teams from shooting to limit our embarrassment. But these girls showed up, every week.
Over the summer, a couple of them played on a Summer League team with the 8th graders. Instead of losing big, we lost 7 games by 3 points of less. They clearly got closer, but the agony of just missing fed them. Many of them came to open gyms, attended the Star Shooter clinic, and just played ball. We even had a 6th grader showing up… who hadn’t attended a day of LV yet.
A year later, this fall, 2 players returned to lead a team of rookies, players cut from last year, and great athletes who hadn’t played before. 9 games in, we’re 6-3, with the 3 losses coming to teams that are a combined 23-6, and included a 3-point and 4-point loss. The improvement is stunning, and a result of what these girls did to improve – play ball, do it with enthusiasm and work hard. The immense pride in these girls does not come from winning, but from seeing this “family” work hard together to be as good as they possibly can be… together, they’re achieving “Competitive Greatness.”
Tonight, as a team, they get to play Old Quarry. Winner finishes in 3rd place. But regardless of the outcome, this team has a achieved more than any team at Lakeview in recent memory. As a “family,” they worked to become the best possible ballplayers they could be. And they did so with an enthusiasm that makes any coach proud, especially theirs. They’re the perfect example of a team.
The lesson that the 2009 JV girls teach us is simple: if you want the rainbow, you must first put up with the rain. These girls wanted to become ballers, did everything we offered, persevered through many disadvantageous situations with great enthusiasm and optimism, and just love playing basketball. If you’d like to become the kind of ballers they are, you may want to follow in their footsteps!