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There have been only a certain few basketball coaches who can step onto the hardwood, spread their wisdom, and (with a little luck) win a championship. Coaches dream of being hoisted onto their team’s shoulders and paraded around the court like a king. Looking down at the smiling faces of the 2nd grade basketball team I was going to coach I came to a realization that if they tried to hoist me upon their shoulders, I might just squash them.
I’m not really sure how I ended up being in charge of six 2nd graders with high amounts of energy and three second spurts of attention. My buddy had approached me in my most vulnerable state (eating a Burger King Burger while also devouring McDonald’s French fries; try it) and, after buying me a milkshake, requested I help him with a little job. “It’s just coaching 2nd grade basketball for one practice. I’ll be there the whole time; I’m sure all the parents will be helping out. It will be a breeze”. Little did I know that “breeze” was a little more of the likes of a hurricane.
On that night I arrived early to make sure my role for the team was very clear with all parties involved. I would come to the gym and do nothing else besides that. I didn’t have to say any encouraging statements to the kids such as “Good shot!” or “Hey you didn’t hit anybody that time!”. I would get to just sit on the side, nursing a slurpee, and receive my community service hours. Apparently this was not at all the case as my buddy called me five minutes before the practice to inform me that he was “going to be running a teensy bit late”.
“I’m sorry I actually like to use actual fragments of time when I talk, how long is a teensy bit?” I replied.
“Well I doubt I will be able to come at all, see 24 is on tonight and I kind of need to catch up. Sorry bro”.
I angrily hung up the phone and said a few expletives for good measure. I was about to leave when a tiny face poked its head into the gym door. “You shouldn’t say those words you know, my mom says if you say those words you are going straight down to you-know-where,” it chirped as the small person strode into the room. He has spiky black hair, with splotches sticking up, giving him the appearance of a human porcupine. He was soon followed by other little bodies which, after realizing that this was indeed a basketball practice not some sort of a satanic ritual, smiled and ran around smashing their bodies into walls. “My name is Anthony, I am in the 2nd grade. I am almost as good as Michael Jordan and way better than Lebron James. My pizza eating record is eleven, I can count to a billion, and I have thirteen girlfriends,” the porcupine proudly announced then proceeded to slam his small frame against the nearest wall.
Not only had my buddy left me out to dry but he had also lied to me about the parents helping out. When one of them walked in to make sure their child wasn’t going to be abducted, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a father figure who can help control these young demons. “Practice is over at 6, right?” he whispered, then following a nod from me, sprinted out of the gym. So much for help.
“All right guys it’s time to circle up, we need to have a little talk,” I announced while rounding up the boys like cattle on a farm.
“Who are you?”
“Are you Jesus?”
“No, dummy, Jesus wears a robe”
“You have a funny shirt on”
“Is practice over yet?”
“Did I already tell you I can eat eleven pieces of pizza?!”
“Why are you holding your head in your hands like that? Do you have a brain freeze? I get those when I eat too much ice cream . Did you eat too much ice cream? Your tummy looks like it has had too much ice cream”.
The rest of the practice went just as smoothly. I attempted to get the children to do some simple drills: shooting, passing, dribbling. After about ten minutes they decided it was much more important to throw the balls at each other as hard as they could. I would confiscate one ball, then, while I was chasing after the other, a tiny leg would trip me and send me and ball in opposite directions. There was one bright spot when a little tike named Sam, who had spent most of practice sitting in the corner, picked up the ball, dribbled toward the basket, and executed a perfect layup. The other kids stopped their violent behavior and opened their mouths in amazement.
“So what? I can do that too,” Anthony said and proceeded to do exactly that. The other boys soon followed suit and eventually I had what resembled the Washington Wizards on my hands. After that we moved on to passing drills which went so well they would have made Steve Nash proud. There was only one fatality as one of boys, named Vikram, decided that it would be a good idea to catch the ball in the middle of his face. The other boys stared transfixed as the blood gushing out of his nose.
“Can someone please get me a paper towel so I can help this poor child!” I screamed at the blank faces.
“Where do we get one?” they asked, seemingly perplexed.
“You’re the ones who go to this school, not me, how should I know?”
“Well I never use paper towels, I like it when my hands are nice and wet so I can flick water at people”, Anthony revealed, then splashed water from the water fountain onto the nearest victim’s head. After I got Vikram cleaned up I glanced at the clock and saw it was 5:55! I had survived! After I let the boys shoot around for the last five minutes I huddled them up one more time. “I’m just letting you guys know that Ian will be back next week for practice, this was only for today,” I said as I gazed around at the little people.
“Aw come on you gotta come back. At least so you can see how good I am in a game,” Anthony said as he shuffled his size four sneakers on the floor.
“Yea, we like you”
“Even when you say bad words”
I smiled and shook my head. “Sorry guys”. The boys filed out and headed out to their various minivans, which were full of parents ready to peel out of the parking lot to get their tired child in bed. I chuckled to myself and said Well that wasn’t too bad, but no way will I ever get suckered into doing that again.
I did. I stayed coach for the team for the entire season, through the playoffs, and all the way to a championship victory. Sam and Anthony both combined for ten points, which is all we needed as the final score was 10-0. After the championship game I picked up Anthony, hoisted him on my shoulders and said, “Who’s hungry for some pizza?”