Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good Deed #29: Helping the Real Heroes

Yesterday I came home after a long day of work and couldn't believe how many chores I had to do around the house. For one of the first times it gave me a real appreciation for the homemakers of the world who take care of the household while their loved ones are away. I've been in the AF long enough to know that the people who do the real work are those behind the scenes. Today I donated money to the Air Force Assistance Fund and specifically the Air Force Village Foundation which helps takes care of retired officers' widows. After years of supporting their spouse so that they may help defend this country, it's only right that we take care of them back.

Good Deed #28: Whatever It Takes

This basketball season I probably could have counted a lot of events as "good deeds," in my personal tracker. But to me, coaching brings me back to why I set out on this endeavor to begin with. Sure I would have liked to have completed all of these deeds in one year, but sometimes things don't always go our way. Take my season for instance, my players did everything that was asked for them and in the end we had a blast despite losing in the championship game to a team whose coach did not play by the rules. The league rules state that everyone must play a minimum of 5 minutes per game. In the championship game he had three players who played 2:05. Instead of complaining, I went with it and realized that not all adults think that the rules apply to them, nor do they have the same level of integrity. To my own personal satisfaction I felt good about how I approached that game knowing that the opposing coach was going to cheat by playing his starting five for the entire game. I knew I could sleep well at night because I did right by my team. They had gone to all of the practices all season long and deserved to play. I also knew that despite his best efforts, I without a doubt "out-coached him" anyways...yup that felt good.

After the game was over I expected that our team would have received a runner-up trophy for having come in 2nd place during the playoffs. I was wrong. Instead, the league director handed out a regular season 1st place trophy to the same team who won the championship. That's right, two trophies were awarded to the winning team that day while my players walked off the court with a handshake. Awards mean nothing to me but I know they mean something to young men. What does matter to me is recognition, not in a celebratory way but just as a way of saying "thanks." At the end of my season I had several players come up to me to say that very thing "thanks." To me, it meant more than any trophy that I could hold or any award that could have been given to me.

Youth basketball coaches often do a lot more than what parents may see during the hour long games on friday night or saturday morning. We make phone calls to remind players of practices and rescheduled games, we wait at the end of our practices for our players parents to arrive and pick them up. We even show up early so that there is a chaperone in the gym for those who arrive early. Often we even go beyond that. This year I had to pick up one of my players for every Tuesday practice (we practiced twice a week, games twice a week) I would have to get out of work early, drive 30 minutes out of my way, only to rush to the gym so that we could make practice. In addition, I routinely drove two other players after practices so that they could catch the tail end of their siblings basketball games. This year I also held a pizza party at Chuck-E-Cheese for the players and families with tokens for games included, none of this was required by the league.

Per the usual, I spent hours drafting playbooks of the ever-changing (never perfect) offensive and defensive schemes and printed them off to hand out with each revision. I made a game plan for every practice the night prior and took pride in being the most organized and best coached team in the league. I suppose I have my High School basketball Coach to thank for that. Like the previous year, I also sent the players a personal note and thanked them for the season as well as an 8x10 photo which I had printed up since the team photographs that the private company they use are usually too expensive for most families.

At the end of the year the league had an all-star game and BBQ. I agreed to volunteer to set up and upon arriving I noticed that there wasn't enough soft drinks to support all of the people. I quickly made a run to the store to purchase more soda with my own money. To me it didn't matter that I had to pay for it, all I cared about was that people could enjoy themselves. In circumstances like that, however small and insignificant as it may have seemed, I was willing to do what it took to get the job done right.

Coaching youth basketball (when done right) is hard work. I may even argue that it's tougher then what some of these paid coaches on TV have to deal with. Even so, I enjoyed every minute of it. It's too bad that I will be in Afghanistan next year and will not have the opportunity to coach again. With all that society has said about our younger generations and how ill-equipped they are to handle the "real world" with their lack of skills, I for one can point to 11 youth basketball players and know that in them, I tried to make a difference. Like the old adage, "It's incredible how much good can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit." For me, all of the credit goes to them. I'm just sure glad I was a part of it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Good Deed #27: Home Base

I try to never miss an opportunity to honor our country and those who have fought to defend it. Call me old school, but there are just certain things that I do not compromise over. Tonight I read a post about some servicemembers that were on base to watch the Super Bowl and did not stand during the playing of the National Anthem. While they have served their country, they have also neglected to adhere to a very proud tradition. Just as I read this post, a few minutes later I got an email to donate money towards servicemembers who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries. I couldn't pass it up. This is an injury that is often overlooked, I'm glad Fenway has decided to team up with New Balance to bring awareness and raise money for these brave Patriots. If you'd like to donate please visit Run to Home Base.