Being that our school does not have its own gym, my team is always scrambling for gym time. This forces me as the coach to be very creative--one day, we run stairs that adorn a local business, another day, we run to the bridge and back to school. Some days, we carve out a small swath of space outside, sandwiched between the cheerleaders and their tumbling mats and the latchkey kids who are taking their sweet time in getting home.
With all these distractions, I found it smart during a recent workout to have the players close their eyes as they dribbled the indoor basketballs on the asphalt outside the school. The idea is to have them work on game situations, in which they will hopefully have their heads up to see the floor and any openings in the defense. The fingertips do the work, locking in the good habit of dribbling the fall away from the palm of the hand for greater control.
After about ten minutes of constant dribbling--inside out, crossovers, front to back-- I gave the guys the okay to open their eyes. Our big man decided he liked the sensation and kept his eyes closed as the eyes of his teammates fixed on him.
His tall, skinny frame bent awkwardly at the waist, his right hand bent in front of him as a sort of buffer for the defense, he looked alternately ridiculous, lost, and in his own world.
His intensity, though, burned through, and he was no doubt in that zone that athletes talk about with the reverence of a prodigal son.
That zone, as slippery as it is enthralling, is what an athlete chases his whole life.
"Look," said a teammate, pointing at his still-squinting center, "Josh has The Eye."
And, that, I think to myself, is what I'm chasing some ten years after high school.