Jamie is one of our most important players, but not for the reasons you’d think. Of the 9 years I’ve coached girls, one of the biggest struggles I’ve faced is learning how to help players understand what their roles are and help them improve at their appropriate skill level. I mean, you essentially have 12+ players fighting for 5 spots on the floor. As everyone improves, it doesn’t guarantee you any more playing time. Most players quit when it’s evident that they won’t get to play a lot, or that they’re not the star. Not Jamie. Arriving at 7 am before the biggest game of the year, and having played less than most players at her position, she’s still asking for help and trying to improve. I love, so much, this kind of attitude.
Jamie started playing in 6th grade. First on our Sunday League team, then JV, now Varsity. She’s improved steadily every year. As is unfortunate on a great team, so have her teammates. But Jamie doesn’t get mad. In fact, despite that, she is our single best teammate. She’s friends with everyone, she’s the loudest one there, and she’s constantly enthusiastic. Yesterday we beat our rival in OT, to advance to the Conference Championship. In the middle of letting an 11 point 4th quarter lead slip away, Jamie is still bubbling away and jumping around. We’re obviously terrified at the time, but Jamie is making us laugh.
Similar to Cara, Jamie is one of our strongest players. And downright mean sometimes! When she gets pushed or knocked over while rebounding, she just gives this “back off” glare and immediately transforms into a monster. She’s active on defense, rebounds strongly, and has a great shot from 10-15 feet out. One of the reasons why we’ve broken 50 points 4 times, and 60 points twice, is because of players like Jamie. Nobody on my bench can’t play. So even when winning by 20-30 points, I have girls in there flat out beating everyone else.
In my 9 years, coaching I’ve never had a group of girls that, as a team, was as unified in their sense of purpose as these girls. Nobody cares who gets credit. We’ve had 7 different girls lead the team in scoring on a given night. The majority of our girls score on a give night. We’ve shattered our team assists record. All because everyone wants to achieve one goal, together. Nobody is concerned about the minutiae of a team and personal gain. Our personal gain IS team success.
That’s what I find so important about Jamie. I’ve had other players throw a fit with more playing time. And I’m a generous coach, everyone plays, almost all the time. But Jamie’s commitment to this team is a remarkable show of maturity and team spirit. Her love for her teammates inspires everyone. They see how much she cares, and how much she enjoys this team. The starters return it to her when she’s on the floor. Her attitude propels this team upward.
If we can match Jamie’s spirit and enthusiasm, we’ll win our last game Tuesday. That’s the challenge – she’s set the bar pretty high. Then again, without her setting that bar, how high would we have jumped by now?