Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Coach vs. The Player

Walking into the local YMCA during the last five weeks has meant a jogging suit, lowtops, and a whistle around the neck. Some of these days, I came in ridiculously overdressed, coming straight to basketball practice from my summer teaching job. I was Coach.

Today, I walked in with my Reebok bag, my hightops, and my faded North Carolina-blue basketball shorts. I was there to play ball with the workers from the local software company. I've played with these guys a few times, as my friend-quite a post player-let me know about their Wednesday and Thursday lunchtime battles a few years back. Call me Player.

This was the first time I'd played in a few weeks, and I'm a bit embarassed to say that I did my high school ritual, eating the prescribed pregame meal I adapted faithfully from an NBA conditioning book that's so old that gracing the cover and demonstrating ab workouts inside is one Doc Rivers-as a player.
My triumphant return to the court almost didn't happen, as I almost fell victim to one of the weirdest maladies ever known to keep a player out of action...
I couldn't get my bracelet off.
Yes, that's right. In a week or so of wearing this Guido-style, linked silver bracelet, I've already received a few lowblows, but a few more compliments. The only problem is that I didn't put it on the first time-my aunt insisted on doing it, and I didn't know how to take the dang thing off.
As game time approached, I realized with dismay that I couldn't play basketball with this bracelet on! Someone might get hurt. Right?
Partly embarassed, partly dumbfounded, and partly and secretly happy, I watched as the clock ticked to within thirty minutes of game time.
Finally, with a little help from a stretched-out paperclip, I opened and took off the bracelet. Any other excuses I can think up?
The game started, and I called out screens for my teammates, tried to set backscreens on offense, and basically tried to do the little things. The coach in me knew that boxing out, playing help defense, and making the extra pass would help my team to win, but the player in me at times called for isolations, leaked out early (they call it "cherrypicking"), and jacked up a few ill-advised shots from well past the three-point line.
The results of this coach versus player, man-against-self conflict? I was probably 3-8 shooting, with five misses in the middle following two jumpers to start the game. I was scored on a few times, at least once getting left in the wake of a driving player, once getting a shouldabeen defense rebound ripped out of my hands by a smaller guard.
Perhaps the coach in me and the baller in me reached a happy medium on the last play of the game. A steal by my teammate led to him having a teammate running to his left and a lone defender a step behind. The coach in me was satisfied by my never giving up on the play, running down to grab the rebound from the missed layup. The baller in me got his Andy Warhol on, gaining a bit of glory and high fives for the game-winning layup.
We'll call it a draw.

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