My third season of coaching high school basketball as the Varsity Assistant at Watertown-Mayer has come to a close and I can confidently say that the end of the season is never easy.
Nothing in sports will ever compare to the feeling as a high school senior, knowing you just played your last high school basketball game. The idea that this sport, which you dedicated a large portion of your 18 years of life to, is over is an overwhelming thought in the moment.
You think about your friends and how you’ll never celebrate a big road victory with a chaotic bus ride. You think about how you’ll never quite feel those same competitive juices again. You think about how your friends, family and community will never watch you play again.
However, it doesn’t get that much easier as a coach, at least for me.
Every season, our season ends earlier than I am hoping. By that I simply mean that I never want it to end. This year was no different.
There are many reasons to become a coach. First of all, it is great to get to know the kids and form relationships. It is rewarding to work with these student-athletes every day for almost 4 months and learn about what makes them tick.
It is also enjoyable to watch them grow, both as players and people. We work on their post skills, shooting, defense and basketball IQ while also working on their discipline, character and maturity. After players graduate through our program, it is rewarding to see how far they have come.
Coaching is also a complex and entertaining puzzle. I thoroughly enjoy analyzing a group of players and trying to devise a plan on how we can be the most successful as a team. Spending time scouting opponents doesn’t feel like work, even if it is deep into the night and I need a couple of coffees the next day to stay awake. The game strategy is a fascinating aspect to coaching that keeps me interested every day.
After beating Brooklyn Center this past Thursday, a rematch with the Blake Bears was waiting. We had lost to Blake earlier in the season and really wanted to avenge that loss and advance further into the playoffs.
The game was a hard fought, back-and-forth battle from the tip-off to the final buzzer. The boys played hard, they executed the game plan and we had a chance to win all the way to the end. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t our day and we fell short in a three point loss.
I believed that both of our final 3-point attempts to tie the game were going in and I felt the sudden dread and sadness when neither shot found the net. Watching Blake celebrate the win is enough to rip your heart out.
After congratulating the opponent, I began wandering to the locker room with our team as we realized the reality of the situation and our emotions started to show.
In the locker room, I realize that I will not get to coach this outstanding group of young men again and for the third year in a row, a slight tear is in my eye and my throat closes up, leaving me unable to speak.
I am thankful and appreciative for every second that I get to coach high school basketball and am proud of Cale, Devyn, Ethan, Pat, Sam, Tadlock and Will, just like I am of each senior class, for representing Watertown-Mayer and being a tremendous group to coach.