When talking with people from back home and around Ireland I am often asked “are you and enjoying working with the kids?” Simple answer: Yes. However if I was to unpack that question in more detail you would find some interesting ideas and realizations. Over the last two months I have worked consistently with one club while also being peppered around to other schools and clubs for solo sessions with groups of all ages. During this time I have come to a few conclusions.
Young kids are the best renewal of energy.
Though the average age of the children I have been working with is probably 12 or 13 every now and again I run a session with the little tykes (ages 6 or 7). It is during these sessions that my passion for basketball and making a difference is most refreshed. Something about the pure energy and idolization of younger kids provides coaches like myself and others with such a great gift. Even if I am only able to get through 2 or 3 drills over the span of an hour and a half, an eternity for the little ones, watching them run around enjoying this complex game in the most simple way reminds me of why I started playing the game. If you are ever frustrated with the world or your current situation spend some time with a 7 year old in a gym and you’ll realize that things aren’t that serious.
The NBA is a paradox of basketball influence.
The NBA is the unequivocally the best basketball league in the world, it’s comprised of some of the world’s greatest athletes and is night in and night out entertainment. However, because these players in the NBA are the most skilled in the world, they often make the seemingly impossible look easy. Add that to the time difference allowing for kids in Ireland to only catch the highlights of games unless they decide to stay up till 2 a.m. and what you have is a lot of kids jumping over the fundamentals of the game and trying things way above their pay grade. While it is a unbelievable source of inspiration and entertainment what is missed by most people watching the NBA is the countless hours put in behind the scenes to allow these athletic titans pull of these amazing feats of skill and strength. So while I am happy to see so many NBA jerseys worn by the kids in these training sessions, I have to constantly remind them that learning the fundamentals is more important than trying some of the things they see from NBA players.
3. Coaching girls is way more efficient than coaching boys.
Though I have worked with boys and girls of all ages since I have been out here, most often I find myself running a session of 20-25 boys. However anytime I have had a group of girls, regardless of age, I have left the session feeling as though everyone in the gym got better, a feeling that is sometimes absent in my usual sessions. The reason behind this being simple; girls listen. Not once have I had to stop a workout with girls to address the issue of people not listening or being on task. Now the reasoning behind this is much more complex and you could read several papers, essays and books of gender theory and not exactly be able to pinpoint the true reason but without delving into that I’ll say that I am appreciative of the change of pace provided by these girls. Until boys decide to follow the lead of the fellow female hoopers, I will be referring to our weaving passing drill as the “Three Women Weave” and our defense as “Woman to Woman” unfortunately most of the boys won’t be listening closely enough to catch the difference.