Basketball Woes

Daisy plays basketball on the varsity team at her high school. She made varsity her sophomore year and played extensively in the first few games of the season, but then was benched after that. The coach put her in sometimes for the last couple of minutes of each game, but that was all. She went to the coach multiple times and spoke with her about it, but the coach only told her she needed to play better, like she did at the beginning of the season. She was never given any specifics.

And when she was put in for those couple of minutes, or sometimes just 30 seconds, not only was she playing cold after sitting the bench all evening, she was paranoid about playing well, and consequently made all kinds of mistakes. After playing (and loving) the game since 2nd grade, suffice it to say, Daisy’s sophomore year of basketball really did a number on her.

Junior year, she nearly didn’t go out for basketball, but her friends on the team urged her to play, and she ended up starting each and every game. But sadly, the coaching was still just as lousy. The girls were constantly told how terrible they were, but they were never told WHY. The coaching style was like boot camp, with the only feedback being put downs and insults. Positive reinforcement was an unknown, except for the occasional, “Yes, now THAT is what you should have been doing all along, and you’d BETTER keep that up,” always said with a scowl. In spite of being a primary starting player, Daisy hated her basketball season and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

One might ask why we, as parents, didn’t say or do anything about this nonsense. Believe me, we considered it. It was a constant topic of discussion between Jed and me. But the bottom line is that in our small town school, the athletic director thinks this coach hangs the moon. The administration is 100% supportive of the athletic director, and the school board is 100% supportive of the administration. We had nowhere to go. What’s more, we had seen girls in the past whose parents had intervened, and they were black-balled by the coaching staff.

Our only choice was to grin and bear it or find Daisy another school or another program. There are no other basketball programs offered in our area during the school year, we couldn’t afford private school, and sending her to another public school in another town had the same price tag as a private school. If she wanted to play basketball, it was this program or nothing.

So for the past many months, Daisy has been on the fence about whether or not she’ll play this year, her senior year – the year she will be captain of the team. For the past several weeks, she has played in a non-competitive league with the goal of having fun and getting warmed up for the season. She plays with all the girls on her varsity team. Although the varsity coach has a daughter on the team, she is not allowed to “coach” her team off season, so she sits in the stands with the other parents, scowling most of the time.

Yet the coach of this off season team is a former high school player who clearly takes all her cues from the real coach. Everyone knows it’s a sham, but no one says anything.

This past week, the games were scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Daisy had been fighting a cold, so we skipped church and let her sleep in as long as she wanted. Finally at 11:30, I woke her, and her cold was much worse. She told me she couldn’t go to the game. This was the first time I could remember her ever being sick enough to decide for herself that she wasn’t going to play basketball. I had made her stay home before, but she had never initiated it herself. She contacted the young coach and told her the situation. In response, the coach rudely told her that she shouldn’t have given such late notice. Daisy was taken aback, but shrugged it off.

The next day, still sick, Daisy dragged herself to school, only to be met by one of her teammates who told her that the young coach, as well as the varsity coach were very angry with her for letting them know so late that she couldn’t make the game.

I was furious when I heard this. It’s bad enough that the coach has such a negative impact on these girls during the season, but I was not going to stand by and watch it happen off-season. I emailed both the young coach and the varsity coach. I was drippingly sweet, but I basically told them both that discussing their anger at an absent player in front of the team was completely inappropriate.  And by the way, SHE WAS SICK.

I received a very quick response back from the varsity coach telling me that she couldn’t be expected not to behave as a parent, and that as a parent, she was disappointed for HER daughter that her teammate let her down. Gimme a break. She also talked about leadership, the fact that Daisy is a senior, etc. Whatever. Later that evening, I got a response back from the young coach that clearly had been written by the varsity coach. No apologies, no owning their wrong behavior, just more finger pointing at Daisy for handling it poorly. Yes, really.

Daisy is still talking about not playing this year. Tryouts are in two weeks. On one hand, I want to see her play. It’s her senior year, the year she’s been working toward since she was seven-years-old. She will start once again, she’ll be captain, and she’ll have seniority. Plus, she’ll have senior night, where she (and we) will be honored for her basketball career. In a sense, this is what we’ve all been waiting for.

Yet… on the other hand, I’d love to see her quit, I’d love to see the coach’s face when she tells her, I’d love to go to the coach, the athletic director, the principal, and the entire TOWN and tell them WHY she quit. I’d also love to see her have a relaxing winter of skiing and enjoying herself, rather than constantly being stressed and in tears over that stupid coach

So there you have it. Stay tuned.  Oh, and by the way, Daisy is still sick.