THE PEE-WEE BASKETBALL DIARIES

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by West Coast Craig 

SILVERLAKE, CA –  Could there be a less important day in sports than Pro Bowl Sunday?  This is the lamest All-Star game by far, and frankly, aren’t they all lame to begin with?  I can see that it’s a great excuse to reward the good players with a fun week in Hawaii, but now it’s not even going to be in Hawaii after this year…so I’m not sure what the point is anymore.  Does a Laker-Cavs mid-season game count for anything?  Nope, nada, zip.  That was a good week for Knick season ticket holders, even if the home team still has some work cut out for it.  However, we may be on the threshold of some good sports stories-A-Rod won’t be the last tainted player to be revealed in the next few days (but Rex covered this very well yesterday)-and, ohboyohboyohboy, baseball is starting up again in mere days. 

 So, when the going gets slow, the slow get going…and I start talking about things in my life.  It’s the winter season, so that means basketball, and now after trying to beat the nuances of t-ball and soccer into the heads of five and six year olds, I can attest that basketball is the hardest game to grasp.  It’s hard for me now, as an adult…I watch the NBA, I play it on the Xbox, I used to play a lot back in college and when I first moved out here, and honestly, I never quite got it.  At least not on the level I “get” football and baseball.  A lot of it is because I’m simply not very good at it, I can’t dribble with my left hand nor jump more than a couple of inches, and I’m not quite sure what constitutes a foul (and certainly watching an NBA game doesn’t help), nor do I have any idea what coaches are doing when they’re drawing up plays.  Now I appreciate what makes it a great sport, the athleticism on display is incredible, there’s that indelible mixing of styles-speed versus size, for example-that makes for compelling drama, and a rattling slam dunk off an alley-oop is one of the most exciting things in sports…not to mention it’s easy to pick up a ball and just play, without buying hundreds of dollars worth of equipment or needing a football or baseball field.  It also seems so simple…just put the ball in the hoop, right? 

Now that I’m coaching it, though, I’ve started to at least guess at what those coaches are drawing up on their erasable boards.  Not that it makes any difference to our games.  Basketball seems simple enough, but there are concepts involved that you just have to figure out on your own.  Playing defense, knowing which basket to shoot at, playing without the ball, getting open, not tackling the guy with the ball, don’t steal it from your own teammate, don’t just stand there, get the ball!, wait under the basket, get the rebound, don’t be afraid of it!, pass, pass, pass!  I’m pretty hoarse after a game.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, coaching this age group is about two things, herding cats and yelling your head off.  I’m so afraid the other parents are going to think I’m the Great Santini or something, I’m constantly screaming at Kasey in particular (fortunately, I’ve got cool parents…they’re very appreciative and say I should yell at their kids more).  Today was one of those days when his head just wasn’t into it.    

  I can yell and scream, but I can’t hold it against him.  It was a tough stretch for the Silverlake Dark Knights (yes, the coolest name in the league, thank you very much), thanks to a scheduling quirk…today was a rare Sunday game, wrapping up three games in four days.  On Thursday night it was pouring rain, and of course it’s cold and flu season…yet we got five kids who got their parents to drive them over to Glassell Park, an “away” game.  Glassell is a bit rougher neighborhood than latte-drinking Silverlake, and they take their youth sports a little more seriously.  Our kids can get caught mesmerized by the scoreboard, they leap up and down like they won the World Cup when they score a basket.  The Glassell kids make a basket, they turn and run to the other end of the court and get in defensive position.  Plus, our gym at Silverlake rec is basically built to size…5-6 year old size.  It’s, let’s say…cozy.  Glassell’s gym, by comparison, is full court, which feels like you’re playing in an airplane hangar coming from our place.  The lowered eight foot rims and backboard are attached to the front of the main rims, leaving about ten feet between them and the back lines, a Neverland where our boys inevitably get caught, their shots banging off the back of the backboard.  The mighty five who made it were Malcolm (a tall but goofy kid with a great smile and nary an aggressive bone in his body), Olivia (I’ve made sure to draft her since she was on the t-ball team…she’s small but always has her motor running), Cosmo (our best ball handler and shooter…though not immune to taking the ball the full court towards our basket, as he did this night), Wally (whose dad has been great as my assistant coach this year), and of course Kasey.  We got smoked, but we had a great run in the third quarter where we scored eight points (we can go two games without scoring that)…and more importantly, with just five kids we had no subs, which made it easy for me to coach (that’s the third important thing about coaching these kids, making sure everyone plays), but crazy hard on them.  They ran their asses off, up and down that full court, all 32 minutes.  When was the last time you saw a six-year old sweat?  It doesn’t happen much, but at the end of the game these seemingly inexhaustible kids were red faced, soaked through their jerseys, huffing and puffing…and I couldn’t have been prouder of them.   

We had a fuller complement of players on Saturday, including Kylee (our tallest, probably strongest kid, but one who hasn’t quite grown into that body yet and can be a bit spazzy out there) Ollie (the youngest kid, who is slowly starting to get it), and our good friend Gil (whose hot mom is again our excellent team mother).  Gil adds another element of hustle that we really need out there, and on Saturday we beat up on a team of youngsters called the Gnomes (and with a name like that, we just had to win).  It’s good to know there are a couple of teams out there we look good against.  Unfortunately, the nearly as lamely named Lay-Ups, today’s opponent, aren’t one of them.  They have a micro-managing but very good coach, and a couple of huge kids who know how to pass and can sink the J.  They also mugged our kids all game, and I was a little disgruntled with the officiating, but as much as I’d like to pick up a folding chair and toss it across the court like Bobby Knight, I think Kasey would like me to keep coaching him.  Pitchers and Catchers report to MLB camps in a week, but since T-Ball doesn’t use either we have a little longer, but not too much…it’s right around the corner.  I’m already thinking about drawing up plays for it.   

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About the Author ()

West Coast Craig reports from Hollywood with an endearingly laid back style. A happily married father of two little boys, WCC has an avocado tree in his yard, plays the hot corner in a "Valley" hardball league and always manages to take cool sports-related mini road-trips, often with his immediate clan. He hails from Oneonta, NY but has been "So very L.A." for twenty years, so his sports teams are the Yankees AND the Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the L.A. Lakers and the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques. WCC loves bacon-wrapped hotdogs and can touch his heel and his ear... with his hand.

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