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His Polka-Dotted Sport Coat Haunts Me

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“Get your a** up there and play with hustle,” Coach Kelley yelled. Dressed in his game day polka-dotted sport coat, Coach Kelley stood by our bench awkwardly as tip-off approached.
Coach Kelley allows no mercy in his training: we cannot take a break longer than two minutes; we cannot dawdle for even a moment; we cannot relax between drills. In everyday warm-up, we scuttle ten laps on the basketball court and we rush through five sets of sit-ups and we make ten lay-ups and we shuttle run three times between the baselines. Daily practices are boring and annoying, but the tiredness never appears on our faces.

Waking up at seven on Saturday mornings for away games is not easy. I have a teammate stab me with a pin to wake me up. We have a team breakfast in the dining hall, but before we put the first piece of French toast into our mouths, Coach Kelley leads us in a prayer: “Thank you for the food. Another game is approaching, so please give our team the strength and courage we have earned throughout the season.”
Spending hours on the bus to other schools for away games is the most precious time for me. We chat, we play around, we make fun of Coach Kelley. Coach Kelley’s posture with two hands around his chest when he gets feisty is a hilarious joke among the team. A quiet moment never falls into our bus. Sometimes we even spend study time on the bus. I see nothing but darkness when I look outside on the way back to Culver Academy. Some people snore and fall into deep dreams.
When we lose—sometimes by 30 points—we have a “nice” talk in the locker room with Coach Kelley after the game. “I’m disappointed with the execution of some plays. Come on, guys! If the ball is on the floor, you are on the floor!” he roars. But he still buys us McDonalds after the game. For some players, the Big Mac at McDonald’s is what they look forward to, not necessarily the victory.
I sit on my bed, remembering, and I laugh.

I remember the sweat and tears I dropped on the court. I remember the moments I spent with my best teammates. I remember the fun.

I laugh again
It still echoes in my head: “Get your a** up there and play with hustle!” my coach yells at me from the bench in his polka-dotted sport coat. . . .





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