Hello from Cork!
I wanted to write this blog about one of my players on my under-12 Brunell team (calling her Sarah). Nine years old, adorably timid, hopelessly polite, and often very quiet but slowly breaching out of her shell, she has quickly become one of my favorites to coach. I have a special place in my heart for Sarah due to her reminding me so much of myself at that age (even though she doesn’t wear super cool sports glasses)
As a kid I was very very shy around new people, with my two older sisters as my automatic best friends and security blankets. While I was always the unapologetically, let’s say eccentric, version of me around my family, it took a long time to develop the self esteem and confidence to fully be myself in new situations. Whether it was participating in class or speaking up in a group, I was very timid, wracked with self-doubt, and in turn often paralyzed to assert myself. It wasn’t until the middle of high school that I finally began to break through these feelings of insecurity. The fast-paced and team-oriented environment of basketball had become a release for me, a place where I felt competent and connected to others. The game helped me believe in myself and learn that fully embracing uncertain, nerve-wracking situations – whether it be taking a set of clutch free throws or introducing myself to a new group of people – is the only way to not only move forward, but to grow as a person. While even still today I face loads of ambiguity in myself and in life, I fully know who I am and can be that person in whatever place I may be, knowingly using my past as a foundation.
This part of my childhood being so central to how I carry myself makes coaching Sarah that much more exciting. Over the past few months, I have seen her develop from practically silent to assertive, invested, and definitely hilarious. Even though her cheeks still turn red when she speaks up in our team huddles (beyond relatable), she is always adding value both on and off the court. Sarah listens intently every time I’m explaining something, and then will visibly try to improve on it when we scrimmage as a team. She also is constantly reaching out to another one of her teammates that hasn’t gotten along the best with the rest of the group.
One of my favorite moments so far was after a timeout during one of our (many) games where we were unfortunately down by *a lot* of points. The girls really struggle with passing out of a trap, and I had to remind them that when you’re in that frazzled situation it is very difficult to see and pass to your teammates that are open. With that, I talked about calling for the ball by yelling the name of the girl in trouble. On one of the next possessions in this nail biter of a game, one of Sarah’s teammates picked up her dribble and in true underage basketball fashion, 3 girls swarmed her, leaving 3 of our players wide open. As the panic of another turnover set in, all of a sudden I hear Sarah scream as loud as I’ve ever heard her (her typical voice rivals the girl in Pitch Perfect) for the ball. My player that was getting trapped thankfully heard her and threw the ball. Even though we did end up adding another turnover to the stat sheet (are those done in u12??), Sarah being the loudest in the gym for a split second was enough to make me happy as a coach.
With only a few months left, I’m excited to see how far she comes by the end of the season. Whether it’s staying with basketball or some other sport or activity, I’m sure she will continue to come out of her shell into the future. Regardless, coaching her has been such a rewarding experience for me and (I hope*) for Sarah as well.