The purpose of this memorandum is to introduce you to the home school basketball program – what we offer to your children and what we expect from you and them.
An athletic team offers the opportunity for an educational experience which differs from an individual academic endeavor. Your child is forced to concern himself with more than simply his own effort and achievement. The efforts of his teammates have a direct affect on his ability to achieve success. He cannot get an “A” on his own. He wins or losses the game based upon how he integrates his ability and effort with his teammates while reacting to his opponents. This is done in the context of a physical activity which requires your child to exercise judgment, react quickly to a rapidly changing situation with a disciplined response, often when events are unfolding in a manner which are not expected or desired. It is a cooperative endeavor which, in many ways, mirrors the experiences which your child will be required to deal with in life. While a basketball game is not unique in this regard, it is a fertile learning ground for a young person.
The coaches and administrators of the program are dedicated to providing a Christ centered educational and athletic experience for your child. We generally pray before any event and ask God’s blessing on our activity. We aspire to conduct ourselves in a manner which would please our Creator. We expect to be good role models for your children in our words and actions. We are dedicated to making this a good experience for your teenager. Specifically, this is what we intend to do:
Teach your child the skills needed to play the game of basketball to the best of his ability;
Place your child in a position where he has the opportunity to succeed, thereby allowing him to build confidence in his ability to meet his goals in life and in basketball;
Instruct your child in such a way that he knows that we care about him, including his happiness, spiritual development and athletic development; and
Create an atmosphere which encourages each child to: show love for one another, exhibit good sportsmanship, encourage others, respect officials and opponents, learn to accept both success and failure with grace, and apply what they learn from their experiences to improve as young men and athletes.
In order to achieve these goals, it is necessary that a young person participating in the program do the following:
Commit to the team. This commitment take several forms.
First of all, it means to be there. Basketball practice is not the most important event on your calendar. Many other priorities will prevent your child from attending practice. However, you should attend practice on a regular basis. You have made a commitment to the coaches and your teammates to be there. You should keep your commitment. We generally practice twice a week. The school teams we will play often practice six times a week. The coaches must cover a lot of material in a practice. If you are not there, we cannot always “go back” and teach you what you missed. Your team will suffer if you are in a game situation and do not know what to do because you were not at the practice where you would have been taught what to do. This is especially true for the players who are new to the program. The coaches have always made it a point to establish a relationship between those who regularly attend practice and the allocation of playing time in the games.
Secondly, use your abilities in a manner which gives your team the best chance for success. For example, if you are your team’s 5th best shooter on the floor at a particular time in a game, you should generally be trying to get the ball to a better shooter in a position where he can take a good shot. (Work on your shot in practice and on your own so you are no longer the 5th best shooter on the floor.) There will be times where you will and should take the shot - but the idea is to contribute to the success of the team by doing what is best for the team – not necessarily what is best for you.
Thirdly, work on your game outside of practice. Most of the techniques and skills a player learns in practice require considerable repetition to perfect. You won’t be good unless you work on what you have been taught outside of our limited practices and in the off-season. There are three skills which you must master before you can even start to enjoy playing basketball. Dribbling with your head up, being a capable offensive player from the triple threat position and learning where and how to position yourself on defense. Also remember to constantly work on your weak (non-dominant) hand if you want to have success in basketball.
Listen to your coaches. Some specifics in this regard.
When a coach speaks, you stop speaking. Don’t bounce a ball. Don’t take that shot.
When a coach instructs another player, pay attention. Usually instruction to one player has application to all the players. If a coach stops a drill to offer correction to one player, it is usually because the error is a common one. An instruction to another player almost always has an application to you.
Don’t take it personally. Instruction is usually negative. Something was done that should be done better. The correct way to do it is illustrated so that it can be done better. Remember that "He who refuses reproof is a fool." Don’t think that the coach does not like you or is picking on you. The opposite is usually true. I have heard it said that, when a coach stops correcting a player, it means he has given up on him. We don’t give up on anyone - ever.
Let us know if you are not going to be there.
Practice can only be properly planned when the coaches know who is going to be at those practices. The coaches try to teach team concepts (i.e. zone defenses, presses, offensive plays) when most of the players are in attendance. Obviously, if the coach knows that only 70% of the players are going to be at practice he can plan to avoid a situation where he teaches something that will only have to be taught again later. If the practice will be poorly attended the coach knows he can more effectively use the time to practice individual and not team skills (dribbling, shooting and rebounding). We practice in small gyms. Practices must be planned to integrate everyone who attends and avoid having kids “stand around” waiting for their chance to participate in a drill. If the coach knows he can expect 25 kids at practice he can plan a practice that keeps them all “involved.”
You teach your child courtesy and responsibility when you insist that they send a brief e-mail to the coach letting him know he will not be at practice. The coaches volunteer their time to benefit your child. Your child should understand this and appreciate it. Your child probably has and knows how to use a computer. Don’t miss this opportunity to teach personal responsibility to your child! Have your child send a timely email to the coach when he learns that he can’t attend a practice or a game!
We realize that you are committing your time and resources to this endeavor. We believe that it is important that your child actively participate in the game which he has traveled to attend. We do not have a “home court”. Thus, you may be driving your child for up to an hour to play in a game. The general rule is that every child attending a game will play. If this does not happen please bring it to our attention. The general exception to the rule would be a “play-off” game. In a play-off game the coaches will generally play “to win” without consideration of the playing time committed to each player. There may be other times when a game is very competitive or “close” and the coach is unable to abide by this general rule. However, this should be the exception and not the rule.
Obviously, if you can’t make it to a game it is important that you let us know right away. We don’t want to be in a position where we are forced to forfeit games because we thought you would be there and you did not show up.
Younger players, who are part time players on the varsity (or JV), may also get some playing time on a lower level (JV or junior high games). We attempt to find playing time for everyone at some level. Winning is less of a priority at the lower levels. Playing time should be more evenly distributed. There is a greater emphasis on player development at these levels. We typically are not able to schedule a lot of games for the younger children. We usually play all the kids who come to these games.
We also “favor” seniors. Kids in their last year of the program, particularly if they have been with us for more than a year or two, will often play more than their talent level dictates. We want this to be a positive experience for your child. We want a senior, who has put in the time and effort (regularly attending practice), leaving us on a positive note. We want to make an effort (as he or she has) to include this player as an integral part of the varsity team. This may at times be unfair to a younger player of equal or slightly greater talent. However, where it is close we will favor the senior who has put forth the effort.
Teaching sportsmanship is one of the primary goals of our program. I have found basketball to be a great testing ground. At different times it has brought out both the best and the worst in me. It is easy to be a good sport when you win and play well. I have told the kids that I have coached that "losing" is often better than "winning." You generally learn a lot more. I am convinced a person is much better able to develop his character when he loses rather than wins. I don’t think you can understate the importance of learning through "losing." Adversity builds character if you allow it. For this reason I try to make sure that we obtain the full benefit of a “loss” on the court so that we will have a “victory” off of it.
As a Christian organization you can be certain that we are being watched by the other teams we come in contact with us. We should strive to reflect Christ in all that we do. We defeat our most important purpose if we exhibit poor sportsmanship. In order to develop sportsmanship there are several rules that apply to everyone — the coaches, players and parents. You should hold the coaches (through me), other parents and players (through me), your extended families (attending games), your player and yourself to these rules. They are:
You say nothing to the referees. Don’t even give them a compliment as this may be misconstrued as sarcasm. The referee has a difficult job. Let him or her do it. As the coach I have a policy of never contesting a call. The referee is the authority figure on the court. We must all respect that authority. I teach all of my players this rule. They are not permitted to question an official’s call. I insist that the other coaches in our program abide by this rule. The only occasions when I will have a discussion with a referee is if an issue of safety is involved or I need a clarification regarding a call. In the first instance, I will be adamant and vociferous. It is my job to protect your child on the court. If he is being subject to the possibility of injury due to poor officiating the referee should and will hear about it from the head coach. If necessary, the coach should feel comfortable terminating the game. I have done this only once. It involved a dangerous condition of the playing surface so I refused to allow the team to play. On one occasion I stopped a game temporarily because two inexperienced officials were allowing it get “out of control” leading to several violent fouls. The game resumed after a “cooling off” period. I have not yet been involved with a game that ended because a referee could not control the game to the degree where it became, in my opinion, dangerous. Regardless, this is the head coach's decision to make. Players and parents can voice their concern to the coach but otherwise should remain silent and not directly challenge the referees. You only make the situation worse by attempting to solve the problem yourself.
You say nothing to the opposing players, coaches and parents. Perhaps a genuine compliment would be acceptable. Otherwise, avoid any discussions with players on the other team. Be complimentary toward other parents, both our team and the opponents. Remember the other team is not the "enemy." This is a cooperative effort meant to benefit everyone. One of the goals of competition is the make our opponent better! We want them to grow, exhibit good sportsmanship and improve their skill level. I often think that I could just as easily be coaching the group of kids on the other bench as I am coaching the kids on my bench. Iron should sharpen iron. Don’t lose sight of the goal because your team or child faces some adversity on a basketball court.
Limit your conversations with the coaches about coaching. No coach likes to be seconded guessed or offered unsolicited advice on how to better do the job. This is especially true of volunteer coaches (like the ones in this program) who don’t need to put up with it and can simply find something else to do with their limited free time. The coaches are required to make quick decisions under changing circumstances. Like the players and refs, the coach is trying his best. The coach will make mistakes like everyone else at the game (exclusive of the fans). Like most of us, the coach usually realizes where he may have gone wrong. The coach does not need you to tell him if he made an obvious mistake. Coaches, like the rest of us, usually seek out instruction from those they trust and respect on how to do the job better. If you feel compelled to comment in this regard you should approach someone else involved in our program first. This will allow you to voice your concerns and perhaps obtain a more objective assessment of the coach's actions. That person can then approach the coach and offer some suggestions. Remember, good volunteer coaches are hard to find. Encourage and support them. If you don’t, we may be asking you to coach!
Speak up about important issues. Abuse of any kind must be immediately brought to the attention of the head of the program. Not just physical abuse but verbal abuse as well. Bullying will not be tolerated either. If we don’t address it for some reason, be persistent. If your child has a learning issue of some kind, bring it to the attention of the coach directly. You can’t expect the coach to know the best way to teach your child if he is not made aware of the issue. You know your child better than any of us. If you believe your child learns best by a certain teaching method, be certain to let us know. The coaches will welcome such advice. We are committed to making this a positive experience for your child.
Enjoy the ride. This is a wonderful time for you and your family. I am now on the other side of this. My two children are grown. One is now a soccer official. I look back, with great pleasure, at their participation in athletics. Our family has many fond memories and we have learned some valuable lessons. Neither of my children were “star” athletes. There was a good deal of adversity. I do believe the experiences helped build character. I remain happy they chose to participate in sports. However, I never watched a game, in which my child participated, where two thoughts did not cross my mind – 1) I could do a better job than my child’s coach and 2) my kid was a better player than the coach thought he or she was. I expect you will think the same. It is generally best to temper these thoughts as they are usually something less than objective.
In closing, I want to relay something I observed several years ago. I was attending a high school basketball game. I was sitting about 20 feet away from the father of one of the players. This man’s son was by far the best player on his team. He played brilliantly. His team won a very close and well played game against very good competition. I watched the father spend most of the game screaming at the top of his lungs at virtually everyone who had anything to do with the game. Referees, coaches, opposing players, his son’s teammates and his son. His face turned so red I feared he might have a heart attack during the game. Everyone around him was embarrassed from just watching him. He seemed to derive no pleasure from watching an outstanding performance by his own child. I left the gym feeling very sad despite having seen a wonderfully played basketball game.
I later learned this same man had another son who chose, at a young age, not to participate in sports at all. This made me even sadder. I hope you keep this story in mind as you enjoy your child’s participation in our program.
We hope that this helps you understand what you should expect from us and what you and your child should be prepared to do in order that this may be a positive experience. Keeping this in mind, I realize that perfection eludes us all. Let’s be charitable to one another when we fall short while we strive to live up to the example Christ has set for us all.
Coach Jim Mescall