Saturday, February 22, 2014

Heart. Broken.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken." CS Lewis

My heart was broken tonight by seven kids with a basketball.

I am the assistant coach of my son's basketball team and the head coach (my dad) was out of town which meant I was in the hot seat. 

Let me interject here, in the interest of full disclosure, that I have never coached anything before and only played basketball in a very casually organized way on a club team in England. England! Where basketball is like cricket is to us. Most people have heard of it, but no one really knows the rules and certainly not the fundamentals.

Because the kids are just finishing up mid-winter break and many families are out of town,  I knew we were going to be down a few players. 

Earlier this afternoon I got an offer from a boy one grade above our league to sub for us tonight. I was torn - if we had this player we would have a much better chance of winning the game - but really it would be cheating. 

And while on the one hand, it's under ten basketball, on the other hand it's under ten basketball. In the end I couldn't do it, but don't let me tell you I didn't consider it. 

So I made my lineups for five players and for six players and for seven players, hoping to God we'd have at least one sub. No luck. We would be playing with five, which meant one of our post players would need to play guard (wing). 

I chose the most versatile of the three posts and put him at wing. When the other two posts got wind of this they immediately asked to take a turn at wing. Up against the wall for the second time today. 

Because here's the thing: we had a much better chance of winning if our posts played post. Both are big kids, tall for their age and quite often able to dominate under the hoop. Both of them had a great game last week, playing at post. The only thing that made any sense really was to keep them at post.

And here's the other thing: only two of the kids on our team have ever played organized basketball before and they are all still learning the game and that is what it's supposed to be about at this stage of the game, learning. How can you learn if you don't get to try new positions? 

So I said yes. 

It was a close game. A VERY close game. We were tied for most of the game and the game was won in the last minute of play. 

Down by two points, we had a chance to score and missed. They got the rebound with 25 seconds on the clock and held the ball long enough to keep us from getting another chance to score. They won.

Defeat. Devastation. Heartbreak. 

We went through the motions of post-game - the "good game" handshake, the post game pow wow where we talked about what everyone had done well, and I handed out some snacks - but nobody's heart was really in it. Least of all mine 

On the drive home my son was in tears and I was torn. 

My decisions had cost us the game, of that I had no doubt. I knew they were the right decisions, but it was really hard to have much confidence in the face of such a heart-breaking loss and my son's tears.

A part of me was angry at the Universe. If you make the right calls - the fair calls - shouldn't your team win? Isn't that the way it should work? 

I don't have all the answers right now. Maybe the other team's coach made some even tougher calls. Maybe they needed the win more than we did. Maybe they were simply the better team last night. All I know is that my heart broke for our team when it was all over.

And yet, underneath it all, I feel I am one step closer...to something. 

[NB. I feel I have learned as much, if not more, from watching my sons' play sports as I ever did playing them myself. Here is one of my favorite blog posts ever about winning and losing - The Game of Life.]

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