One more piece of the weekend that requires its own entry.

L began her basketball season on Sunday with two games. We missed the first game, but we we landed I had a couple texts from the head coach and another parent letting me know that we lost by six and did not play well. We rolled into the gym a few minutes after the tip of their second game. Maybe we should have skipped it. It was pretty brutal.

We were playing a team that had no one as tall as our four biggest players. Yet those little girls knew how to set screens, go to the basket, and convert layups. They kept killing us at the top of the key because we never taught our girls how to switch on defense. There’d be a big pileup at the free throw line with like four of our girls crashed into each other while a girl from the other team went to the hoop unguarded.

Our girls – and us coaches too, to be honest – struggled with the move to “real” basketball. In the league we played in the past two years, we always had a chance to matchup after every substitute. In this league, you’re expected to check in, go to your spot, and be ready to play. For roughly two-thirds of the game our girls had no idea who they were supposed to be guarding. That’s mostly on us coaches, and I’ve been tasked with coming up with a better way to make sure everyone knows what position they’re playing and who they’re guarding.

The worst part of the game was our girls could not rebound. We didn’t track numbers but I would imagine the other team out-rebounded us at least 2–1. Not only were we taller than them, but our girls all kill each other in practice going for the ball. Not sure if they were timid because they were playing against strangers, just out of sorts because they never knew where they were supposed to be, shutting down because most of the game us coaches were yelling “WHO ARE YOU GUARDING?!?!?” or what. One possession we finally got three offensive boards in a row, but couldn’t convert any of the follows.

We have exactly two inbound plays, one from the sideline, one from the baseline. We’ve practiced these for at least two weeks. In the game, no one did either one right. Players that were supposed to cut left cut right, running into the girl behind them that was cutting forward. Girls who were supposed to set screens moved, and those who were supposed to move set screens. Worse, several times the inbounding player smacked the ball and called “BREAK!” and our girls just stood there and stared at her.

I think playing two games hurt the girls, too. L was freaking wiped out after the second game. One of our girls, who is normally crazy high-energy, was walking around like a zombie during the game. Might need to get better nutrition in them all on game days.

Another thing that killed us is we have 11 players. We knew that was going to be a problem coming in, but it was even worse than we thought in a game situation. We were never sure whether to sub five-for-five or a few at a time, and kept losing track of who needed to get into the game. That was all compounded by the girls bugging us at every dead ball, “Can I go back in?” The team we were playing only had seven players, which, what a shock, seemed to make it pretty easy for their coaches to figure out subs. Our plan had been to just run teams to death with our depth. That works better when the players have an idea of how to play, I guess. Again, some of this will hopefully be fixed before the next games in two weeks. Pretty sure I’m going to be holding a clipboard to make sure we sub correctly.

Anyway, we lost 26–4. And it really wasn’t that close. L hit one shot[1] and nearly had the play of the game. We were inbounding under the opposite basket with three seconds left before halftime. You can’t press until the final three minutes of the game, so we had her stand right on the half-court line and wait for the pass. I told her take two dribbles and shoot. That’s exactly what she did, and her heave from 30 feet hit the front of the rim and bounced away. Sad that our best play was a miss.

But other than that we sucked.

Which I pretty much expected. We’ve focused on fundamentals and haven’t put in any offense, other than going to a certain spot on the court depending on your position. Us coaches are all a little flummoxed at how to teach the girls what to do, mostly because every time we explain something, we get 3–4 girls who have half a clue and the rest of the team just stares at us. The league we played in the past two years was very low key. Dribbling was optional, there weren’t many fouls called, you couldn’t steal on the dribble, etc. In our new league you can’t double players outside the lane or play zones, but everything else is like real ball. We all knew our girls would struggle early on. But getting smoked by a team of shorties was a little hard to take.

The league plays every other weekend, so we have four practices before our next set of games. Hopefully us coaches can get our acts together and, in turn, help the girls be better prepared.

  1. She claims she scored 8 of their 19 in the first game.  ↩