In Team Sports Girls Win Even in Loss

I am sure a lot of people back home wonder why I am still coaching in Switzerland, the land of ski, where basketball is a minor sport at best. Facilities are limited, practices sporadic, and talent questionable.

But I still get a kick out of coaching the varsity girls. Last Thursday after teaching until 5 pm, the team and I hopped on 2 different buses and 3 different trains, to travel to Zug to compete in an international SCIS tournament. We lost every game except one, but the results don’t tell the whole story.

When we were down by 20 points against the American School of Vienna, who went on to win the tournament, we came back within a couple baskets. We fought intense battles, losing by a point or two in other games.

Sometimes you play your hardest and still finish next to last. Normally I would be frustrated, but after our final game, I felt content. Our losing tournament was really a success. My players bonded together, improved with every game, and built long lasting memories. They learned to play all out every game even when falling behind.

Though I hate to lose, winning is no longer the be all of my existence. One becomes wiser with age; I know that regardless of the score, the value of team sport is immeasurable. Team competition helps girls grow stronger and healthier, better prepared to negotiate conflict, overcome set backs and believe in themselves.IMG_6207_copy

This year, my players are going through tough issues that come with adolescence. During a scary time period where terrorist attacks, date rape, and random violence reign, they take those tottering steps toward adulthood. They face challenges with heartache and tears: break ups with boyfriends, friends falling out, college rejections, academic pressures, poor grades. But when they come to practice, they run hard, forget their troubles and giggle again.

They make up crazy systems of attack with even sillier names, like double D – sounds like a bra, not a double pick, high post play – Quiznos, peanut butter, and Dani boy.

Towards the end of one game earlier in the season, when we were ahead by 20 some points, our point guard called out, “Mississippi.” I watched in disbelief as all my players sat down on the court except for our point. While our opponents froze in bewilderment, stunned by our bizarre, sit-down offense, our guard dribbled right up the middle of the key for an easy lay.

And I laughed. Gotta love Swiss basketball.IMG_6214

This would never happen in America.

Though I am still every bit as competitive; I still study the game, call crucial time outs, diagram perfect plays, I am more mellow about the outcome. I understand that by just competing and being part of a team even my least talented players will learn lessons lasting lifetimes.

Posted in education, health, humor, relationships, sport.

27 Comments

  1. Yes, it is often times only in looking back that we really appreciate what we learned from losses as well as the wins, but the feelings of comradery and the synergy of being together last far longer than any records set in any given season.

  2. Oh, Helene, that Mississippi play threw me for a loop, but thanks to this team I have learned to appreciate the lighter side of the game.

  3. Amen, Sister! You know I agree with your wise and seasoned advice. Such a heartwarming message. I can see these young women playing their hearts out, and blossoming into empowered adults under your guidance. And giggling again. I love it!

    • In retrospect it is funny that when I look back at my playing career, I no longer remember the big wins or terrible losses. However what I do remember is silly nicknames and details of that made us a team…like one girl wearing the same pair of lucky socks, another always handing out bubble gum for the warm up, and the birthday cakes we shared together.

  4. Amen, Sister! You know I agree with your wise and seasoned advice. Such a heartwarming message. I can see these young women playing their hearts out, and blossoming into empowered adults under your guidance. And giggling again. I love it!

  5. You are amazing and your girls know it! I love how you apply your life experience to the game, and what you are giving back is magical and priceless. I am proud to know you, Pat.

  6. Having fun on a teen sport is great and not that ordinary. I love the Mississippi sit down play, truly shock and awe!

    • Oh I hope all young athletes can remember at the end of the day is not so much about whether you win or lose, but how you play the game – TOGETHER as a team.

  7. Having fun on a teen sport is great and not that ordinary. I love the Mississippi sit down play, truly shock and awe!

    • Oh I hope all young athletes can remember at the end of the day is not so much about whether you win or lose, but how you play the game – TOGETHER as a team.

  8. What a cool post! I loved the story, love how you lead your players, and love their playfulness and inventiveness. And the picture of that one player airborne? As lovely as a ballerina. You made my morning.

    • Thanks Lynne. Oh yes, every coach is thrilled when she has a tall girl that can jump, too. Every year, the team keeps me young at heart.

  9. This is a great post, Pat, and oh so true! At the time we’re playing competitive sports, we don’t realize how much they’re helping us — ingraining lessons of competition, cooperation, respect for others, perseverance, determination, and so much more. Kudos to you for continuing the tradition (and I just know your girls one day will look back fondly on you as their coach — and cheerleader!!)

    • Yes, it is often times only in looking back that we really appreciate what we learned from losses as well as the wins, but the feelings of comradery and the synergy of being together last far longer than any records set in any given season.

  10. The Mississippi play made me laugh out loud. Thanks for making my day. I know my daughters took a lot of life lessons away with them when they were under your tutelage. I don’t know if you remember or not but Janneke did her college application essay on what basketball (and you) taught her on and off the court. I think she’s turned out pretty well. Thanks for being such a wonderful mentor to her and so many other young lives.

  11. The Mississippi play made me laugh out loud. Thanks for making my day. I know my daughters took a lot of life lessons away with them when they were under your tutelage. I don’t know if you remember or not but Janneke did her college application essay on what basketball (and you) taught her on and off the court. I think she’s turned out pretty well. Thanks for being such a wonderful mentor to her and so many other young lives.

    • The last road trip made me appreciate you even more and I sure miss the days when we were coaching the Dream Team and sitting side by side on the bench grumbling. Coaching your daughters was a true joy and seeing the beautiful, strong young women that they have become is the greatest reward. Here’s to you for your part of all of it. High five, sistah.

  12. Lovely story Pat, I can see you with your girls in the La Chat gym right now in my head. All those years of coaching and you still have the energy to do it AND write about it with fun in your heart 😉 you are a true hybrid with a love of the physical and teaching the practice through the theory… Wasn’t the Mississippi play illegal?? 😉 xx

    • No I don’t think the Mississippi play would be illegal unless they sat down in the lane for 3 seconds, but I guess I’ll never know cause the Swiss refs had already checked out by that point in the game. I can still picture you, too, in the gym upstairs as you lead my inflexible ol’bod through the paces and teaching me yoga, balance, aerobics, step and dance. Miss you.

  13. Lovely story Pat, I can see you with your girls in the La Chat gym right now in my head. All those years of coaching and you still have the energy to do it AND write about it with fun in your heart 😉 you are a true hybrid with a love of the physical and teaching the practice through the theory… Wasn’t the Mississippi play illegal?? 😉 xx

    • No I don’t think the Mississippi play would be illegal unless they sat down in the lane for 3 seconds, but I guess I’ll never know cause the Swiss refs had already checked out by that point in the game. I can still picture you, too, in the gym upstairs as you lead my inflexible ol’bod through the paces and teaching me yoga, balance, aerobics, step and dance. Miss you.

    • I bet it is the most outrageous play ever called, and it would never fly in the states, but it sure was a crazy one to pull in the Swiss league.

  14. I love the Mississippi strategy! How clever of your girls. I am happy that these girls have had the experience of being coached by you. And I bet every one of them would agree.

    • Oh, Helene, that Mississippi play threw me for a loop, but thanks to this team I have learned to appreciate the lighter side of the game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.