The last couple of weeks have been a downward battle for my team. Certain inconsistencies have brought the team’s overall seriousness and legitimacy to a serious low. I also have been witnessing how the politics within a team can demotivate and tear the team’s morale inside out. Our game last night to Munro was the perfect example.
“We aren’t defending,” our coach said, “We have to turn up our concentration and intensity. Instead, what do you we do? We whine about how the refs are making horrible calls.”
It was true; the referees in woman’s basketball are horrible and they weren’t helping the situation. Still, this is something all players must learn to get over quickly within a game. We were using it as an excuse.
Our shots weren’t going in. The rim seemed untouchable during most of the game but in the 3rd quarter we reached a ten point gap behind our opponent.
During a time out, our coach tried to infuse us with inspirational words:
“After four losses, there is no better time than NOW to recuperate. THIS MOMENT is the best opportunity. THIS game.”
But I didn’t feel that focused energy that he was trying to emanate. It just wasn’t there.
In the same 3rd quarter, our star point guard, who a lot of the players (including myself) look up to for her sly layups and fast tricks, got injured. One of the Munro’s tall girls fell on her head.
She was on the floor for a couple of minutes before getting up slowly, face wet. She paced herself to the bench while another point guard went in. Her head had been bent in an unnatural way and she wasn’t going to play the rest of the game.
In the last two-minute break between the 3rd and 4th quarter, our coach got up and stood in the middle of the court. It seemed he couldn’t form words or maybe all the words he had were gone, lost in our drama. One of our shooting guards began to cry, the reason unknown to me. Everything was falling apart.
We started the fourth quarter without a point guard. Our window of opportunity was slipping away as that point gap we had worked towards began to widen.
In the last three minutes my coach looked at me and told me to ask for substitute. It was freezing cold in the gym and as I got up and I did little jumps next to my coach. He was mute at this point and didn’t offer me any words before I went into the game.
I was pretty happy for those four minutes. I didn’t feel nervous or scared. Just there. Later Oso gave me a play-by-play of corrections for those four minutes and I can remember them all. My fingers were so cold I lost a ball passed to me in the first moments. I remember going for to rebound free throws and that I didn’t block properly. I defended strongly. I ran with confidence.
In the final moments, two of my teammates made a mistake while passing the ball into the court and it ended up hitting my coach. My coach grabbed the ball and in rage, kicked it with his foot. We all looked up and a spectator on the other end of the court, got up and did a rugby-esque catch. One of the refs whistled a technical foul. That was it.
Once the buzzer sounded, I walked toward my team. We did our hands together cheer and we all went our separate ways.
The morning after I still felt a dull sense of sadness. The depth that this team has reached me is something I’ve never felt before. And the look on my coach’s face in those final moments, I’ll never forget.