What I Learned Today, 3/18/13

Today we learned about Articles 4-7. Adding to our vocab board:

  • Full faith and credit clause
  • Privileges and Immunities clause
  • Fugitive Slave Clause
  • Extradition Clause
  • Ratification
  • Amendment
  • Supremacy Clause
  • Separation of Church and State

Varsity 2013: LV Parents

I’ve spent the last 2 weeks raving about my girls. Truth is, none of their dedication is possible without the people who fund, drive, and care for their dreams.

Over the last 4 years, this group of parents has backed the following crazy/stupid/over-the-top Mr. Little ideas:

  • Supported our fundraiser for new uniforms with their labor and time, supplies, advertising, etc.
  • Drove to Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville for games in a travel league.
  • Drove to Lemont High School over the summer for league games.
  • Drove to Providence High School to sweat all summer and play in twice as many games.
  • Drove to Evanston High School to be trained by Alan Stein, basketball trainer extraordinaire.
  • Attended clinics held by Jay Wolf of “Star Shooter” fame.
  • Attended clinics by Brian McCormick, basketball author and trainer.
  • Traveled to Willowbrook, Bolingbrook, DGS, Montini, Sandburg, and Hinsdale Central High Schools to watch the best players in the state and learn from them.
  • Supported a variety of scrimmage games, including one prior to a Hinsdale South-DGS game last season.
  • Allowed the girls to come in to school over the summer, early in the morning on school days, stay late after practice, and brought them in on days off for training and open gyms.
  • Babysit MY son as I work with the girls during any of these things. This would be as simple as watching him at games, taking him to the bathroom while I coach, or taking him into their homes for a few hours during practices.

All of this in addition to the typical school schedule of practices and games.

I began coaching to work with players that loved basketball. To help them become passionate about this and work hard to accomplish their individual and team goals. I was lucky to find a school with parents that supported that idea of education. That, really, is what this is – just another form of education. There are many good coaches out there, but not all of them have parents who do all of the following, and even make a giant “fathead” to wave at games. Success on the floor may be been expected, but has never been taken for granted. My efforts have always been appreciated by them, which encourages me to only do more for their kids.

I have former parents come back to watch games. They give me some feedback and give me valuable insight as I learn this game more. They let their daughters come back and help me out. They travel to schools just to keep the book for me. They give me parenting advice. All in all, they’re as much a part of this program as their kids are. Sure, it couldn’t happen without them. But it wouldn’t be the same without them either.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Varsity 2013: John and Heather

One of the most rewarding things about coaching has been the relationships I’ve built with two former students.

Heather (class of 2010) played for me for 3 years and was the inaugural class of “the program.” Her hard work and dedication laid the foundation for the success we still have today. Since her 8th grade year, we are 70-18. 3 of those 4 seasons have involved her as a player or coach.

Compared to John, Heather is quiet and reserved. But make no mistake about her dedication and passion for seeing these girls be successful. I get ideas at 10 at night, motivational quotes, and a reliable coach that gets on the floor and pushes players – physically and metaphorically – to become stronger. Her example of just being here is inspiring; but the way she involves herself is what really moves this program. We simply could not be this successful without her. Nor would it be as enjoyable without her presence. She reminds me why I do this, and how far we’ve all come.

John is entirely different. A graduate of Lakeview back in 2007, he wandered back into the gym during his junior year of high school. Having a free period at the high school, he stopped by to say hello, like many students do. But he’s never left.

John has been an inseparable part of this program for the last 4 years. Like Heather, I cannot imagine this program or its success without him. He is a big brother to our players and a friend to me. Once my “protege,” John is now a colleague. His professionalism and passion is remarkable; many adult coaches fail to meet the standard he sets.

Most importantly, John doesn’t loose sight of what is important. His love for seeing these girls – and now boys – mature is impressive. They trust him with their concerns and frustrations; parents trust him as they would a staff member. You aren’t just given that kind of trust, but you earn it.

John has earned the trust through me, but also through his reliability and intelligence. He has hardly missed a practice, attending and planning summer training sessions with me, coaching camps and clinics, interacting with high school and collegiate coaches, and even driving down from college twice a week to help coach. It’s a remarkable sign if commitment that I’m so proud to see develop. Strategically, his basketball mind is top notch – always giving good advice and seeing things I don’t always see.

Other coaches have helped develop these girls, too. But there’s something special about education coming full circle. About seeing seeds you planted grow to fruition. I can see that in a season with a team, but the longevity of life lessons and a passion for teaching is even greater. Other former players get involved, too. Maura, Jamei and Bridget have all helped me at some point; dozens of others show up to help and to share advice. I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by these kids as they became adults. I can see some of myself in them, I learn from them… But more importantly, I’m reminded what’s so special about this learning and teaching thing. My former players and students have simply been the best supporters and purveyors of what I try to do through this program. I cannot thank them enough.

What I Learned Today, 3/12 & 3/13

Yesterday was a discussion of the SCOTUS and a lesson about how they interpret the US Constitution. We reviewed the structure of Article 3, the courts within it, and what the SCOTUS does. We then compared the 4 different ways the Justices make decisions on the court:

  1. Interpret the literal meaning of the Constitution.
  2. Interpret what the framers of the USC intended.
  3. Consider the the social values of our time.
  4. Reinforce the principles of constitution-based law.

Today we’ll use an example with the 2nd Amendment to get more in-depth.

We’ll also use this worksheet to continue to build an understanding of how our government is organized.

2013 Varsity: Madison

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan


Like Kasandra, Madison has lived and breathed basketball. The two have been inseparable here. Madison leaves behind a legacy as being clutch (5 3’s vs. Old Quarry, Playoff OT FT’s), being the best pure shooter I’ve ever coached, and one of my most loyal players and teammates. But most importantly, she’s learned that failure is not permanent. Failure provides opportunity to learn. Missed shots provide an opportunity for an offensive rebound, or another defensive stop. Losses provide reflection on where we’re at in our development.

DSC_0143We all start somewhere. Madison and her friends started as 5th graders, and they varied in skill. After I ran them through their first practice, I wrote “best first practice, ever?” The girls had something, a spark, in them… we all saw it. The challenge was stoking the fire so until it raged uncontrollably. Tonight we play for a conference championship, fire’s blazing in their bellies. And that fire began in a gym 4 years ago. It was stoked over those years in Lemont’s fieldhouse, Neuqua Valley’s gym, in a sweatbox at Providence, in our gym during the summer, at dozens of camps and clinics… and a phone call threw kerosene on it…

Last year we lost a game at Eisenhower. After a series of frustrating losses and events, this was the low point for us. In the wake of several successful seasons, we had hit a point where some of us had  expected success. We hadn’t done the things we needed to do to be successful, and just didn’t “want it,\” . We had officially become the antithesis of what we always had been.

An hour after that loss, I received a voicemail from Madison. She apologized. For not playing with passion, and for not IMG_3588doing everything necessary to be successful. For not leading. This was silly, of course, because as a 7th grader on the 8th grade team, perfection was not expected. But regardless, a player recognized frustration, and apologized. She learned. And in doing so, Madison exemplified another layer of Spartan Basketball.

Madison played her best basketball of the season after that phone call. Made mistakes, but played with passion again. Dove for loose balls. Hit a game-winning 3 in transition, off a steal, to win a game at Burr Ridge. Made some gorgeous passes. She learned. And got better. She spent time in the last year improving her defense, getting it to a point where it’s nearly on par with her shooting. She even took 3 charges in one game on the road last week.

Accountability. Pride. It’s remarkable what basketball does for people. How this family comes together. How we mature through it. How it shapes us. I’m so fortunate to walk these girls into a Championship game tonight. Forget skill – what other coach has a family like this willing to help each other achieve their dreams?  Who else gets to coach girls that have such a passion for the game? For each other?


BET0PSeCIAALMKoI’m not sure a lot of people outside “my family” really understand what we do here. This has never been about winning. Winning is great, I love it. But it’s about the girls, about fostering a love for basketball inside them, and giving them the confidence and fearlessness to assault any obstacle. Of course it’s a ridiculously altruistic goal. But girls believe, girls trust, and they commit.  We struggle through all the developmental seasons, yet we grow our passion. Our dreams get bigger. As a result, we become very good at basketball.  My “basketball family” – the network of players, coaches, and usually parents involved with what we do – sees that, and knows first hand what the power of a team can do. My girls get what we do. My girls get me. A pretty cool bond is forged, and Madison is a perfect example of that. So are the dozens of emails, tweets, and texts from former players and parents (not to mention the ones that come to games!).

Madison is responsible for shaping us all. She’s set a tone by staying in the gym until 5:40 the last 2 weeks, over Christmas Break, and whenever. Enthusiasm is contagious, and this kid is so sick with basketball, her teammates have become just like her and Kasandra. This enthusiasm has helped us learn so much as we’ve made mistakes. Losses have been fuel on the fire. We’ve all become obsessed with one goal, as a family.

Champions? We already are.

2013 Varsity: Jennifer

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden


Our only 7th grade starter, Jen has been the glue for our main rotation all season. She’s probably the least-heralded of our starters, but she might also be the most important.

Jen’s career is not unlike anyone else’s on our team. She’s been involved since her 5th grade season, has exemplified  dedication, and attended as many summer training sessions, on her own, as anyone. Even got a few double sessions in. Play on a travel team, attends Doug Bruno and does everything she can, on her own, to improve. She even took a “shooting strap” home with her to get that elbow in and learn to stop “thumbing” the ball. All this is not really unique to her, as so many on this team exemplify a culture of dedication (“Championship Atmosphere!”). But it’s how Jen plays separates her from the rest of our girls, even our great 8th graders.A61D5142

Jen is our starting “post,” though she’s not really a true post. I don’t have any true posts. I have 5 globally skilled players that can do it all. This allows us to run a variety of sets and use the Read and React offense with a fair amount of success. But defensively is where Jen shines in the post. Her intelligence helps her understand positioning, helps her judge whether a pass requires her to close out, adjust to help side, or go for a steal. And her toughness has lead her to rebound well. She hunts from the backside of a 4-out offense, something which requires patience and savvy. There is no set pattern to our offense, but a set of reactions that requires intelligent and attentive players. Jen sets that tone on both ends of the floor.

Jen’s also a surprisingly strong leader for being an “underclassman” on the team. She’s vocal, she plays hurt, and makes adjustments during games. At Jefferson, with 2 starters out and being our biggest game of the year, Jen picked up 2 fouls in 20 seconds – to start the game. So out 3 starters now, Jen knows she has to come back in and defend perfectly. She almost does. Despite giving up a few buckets at the end, Jen had 6 blocks on a very good player, perhaps the best in our league, and finished the game with only 3 fouls.

Her success is a product of paying attention to the little things. Which foot she pushes off with. Disciplining herself to steal with the correct hand. And, as is the truth with all post players, keep your hands straight up. She doesn’t have size, but she has a willingness to do all the little things to be successful. It’s an incredible desire to be great.

This is also the kid that, after ISAT testing, sits at my computer and takes notes as she watches film. Other girls are reading, playing a game, or drawing something, but this girl comes up to me and asks if she can watch the video. I can’t speak enough to that kind of attention to detail and her success this season. The two are not unrelated.

Jen’s future is very bright. She’ll be the undisputed leader in every respect next season. A coach on the floor, if you will. She’ll probably play some point guard, if not take it over. But the example Jen sets with focusing on the little things is her biggest contribution to this team’s success, and the biggest indicator of how high her ceiling is.