Time for another Kid Winter Sports Roundup.

L finished her basketball season last week. Our team went 3–4, losing to the eventual champions in the tournament.

We started the season 1–3 so obviously finished strong. Our best game of the year was our final regular season game, when we played the team we were tied with for second place at the time. They jumped on us early – leading 8–0 and 11–2 – and I was feeling a little helpless on the bench. Then a dad who helped me last year but was on the bench for the first time this year slid over and said, “Have M (his daughter) set a screen for whoever has the ball. She learned how to do that in fall league.” This is interesting and useful information!

I called a timeout, we showed our two ball handlers how to use the screen, told M where to stand, and sent them back out. First possession, points! Unfortunately it wasn’t always that successful. Our girls kept missing close shots. Our two best players (one of them is L) for some reason refused to use the backboard when they had a layup. So despite getting clean drives to the rim over-and-over, they kept tossing the ball across the rim rather than off the boards. Criminy!

With about 4:00 left in the game, we were down 23–16. I called a timeout and told the girls we could totally win the game. But we had to get every rebound and every loose ball from here on. No more standing there and watching the other team grab the ball while it rolled on the ground.

We sent them back out, ran our screen play, and drew a foul. My best player hit the first free throw then missed the second. My tallest girl, T, crashed in, got the board, and for the first time all year shot right away rather than backing up and waiting for the defense to collapse on her. Swish! 23–19.

The next 3:00 were awesome. We got every damn rebound. We got every damn loose ball. L scored six of the last eight points of the game and we won 29–23. That’s a 13–0 run to close, if my math is right.

When I gathered the team afterward, I told them all how proud I was of how hard they played. They did exactly what we asked and it was awesome to watch. I singled out each girl for what they did, but then I said, “Everyone was great today. But T was our player of the game. She didn’t let the other team get a single rebound in the last three minutes.” Man, the look on her face! It’s little moments like that that make coaching fun.

There was some controversy going into the playoffs. Somehow despite finishing second (out of four teams), we got stuck playing the first place team. I’m not going into the explanation I received, but I think the first place coach was more pissed than I was. We’re pretty good friends so I wound him up a little once I knew he was upset. It eased my annoyance to ramp his up!

We hung with them for the first half, but couldn’t in the second. We were down by 18 or so at one point, but made a late run to lose by just 12. They have three of the five best players in the league and went 8–0, so it was a respectable loss. We missed so many shots, though! They were better than us but if we shot a little better we would have been right in it at the end again.

L had a decent season. She started wearing glasses last summer and played without them. I think that affected her shooting. She told us she had trouble seeing sometimes. We didn’t think it was worth the money to buy sports goggles from her optometrist and have her wear them for just two hours a week, so we ordered some $40 ones online. They ended up being worse than if she went without so she played half-blind. She missed so many shots close to the rim and I can’t help but think it was because her vision and depth perception were off. She had a couple games where she didn’t score at all. But the last two games of the year were by far her best. If there was an all-league team, she might have snuck onto the first team, or been at the top of the second team.

M and C are wrapping up volleyball. M’s team is one of the 5th/6th grade B teams, and is pretty solid. They have one really good server and a couple other girls who can bring it most nights. They’re learning how to run offense and not just stand in one spot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. They’re getting better, though.

They had to play without their best server on Sunday. Before we dropped her off, I told M that she and all her teammates just needed to pick up two extra service wins a piece, and that would make up for missing J. Apparently she shared that with the whole team. More about that in a second.

M came around to serve midway through game one, with her team up 13–7. Her serving has been better this year, but she’s never won more than a couple points in a row. I’m not sure what got into her, but she looked more confident than she’s ever looked. She calmly bounced the ball a few times, took a step, and smacked it into play. She did that 12-straight times and closed out the game! Other coach even tried to ice her by calling a timeout and she was all like, “Naaah,” and just kept serving winners. We were pretty pumped on the sideline and she looked awfully proud of herself on the bench between games. I must say that the team they played was not the strongest they’ve faced. But points are points, bitches.

After they closed out game two, one of our coaches came over and said, “That was perfect what you said to them, about every girl just needing to pick up two points to make up for J not being here!” I have my moments I guess.

M’s team has a winning record (not sure if they’re 4–1 or 3–2) and just one game left before the tournament.

I’m helping coach C’s team and that’s been a whole different experience. In 4th grade, if you get the ball over the net on the serve, you’re usually going to win the point. And our team just can not serve. We have one girl who can bomb it pretty good, but she’s also crazy inconsistent and is as likely to serve it into the net or long as run off a stretch of 4–5 points.

It’s always random what division each team ends up in, and unfortunately every team we have played always has 5–6 girls who can consistently hit it over the net from the service box. That’s just a killer when the girls are all learning how to return serve, pass, and help each other out.

It’s been a little frustrating to watch. The mom who is our head coach played division one volleyball in college. She’s awesome at teaching the girls and very patient. But in games, both of our competitive sides start coming out and we mutter back and forth to each other as we continue to miss serves. We haven’t won a match yet, and have only got a match to a third game once. But we have two more games and then almost two weeks before the tournament. So hopefully there is time to get a few of our more athletic girls serving better.

C is doing ok. She’s probably the most active kid on the team, and has started moving around to follow the ball more. Her play fits her personality: she’s a little flighty and has trouble dialing her enthusiasm back. When she gets a chance to pass, she winds up and smacks the crap out of the ball, often sending it up into the rafters or way out of bounds. I keep telling her to keep her hands below her chest, she nods at me, and then ends up with her hands over her head as she wacks the ball again. That’s alright, though. Aggression we can work with.