An open letter to high school girls basketball coaches
How many points does your team have to be ahead before you stop the full-court press? How far ahead are you before call off the trapping defense? 30 points ahead? 40?
When do you finally pull your starters and give some of your bench players minutes? Does your star player really need 35 points every game?
Is the goal of the game winning or completely humiliating the other team? I want to know. Actually, you don’t have to answer that one. I’ve already seen enough games to know the answer to that question.
Over the past three weeks I’ve watched my freshman daughter’s young varsity team (they only have two returning letter winners) play against some truly ruthless teams. Her team doesn’t have a lot of height or varsity experience and they are playing teams with a lot of both. Going into the season we knew it was going to be a tough one with probably not a lot of W’s. What I wasn’t prepared for though was how painful it would be to watch them lose with scores with like 15-85, 9-49, 7-66, 16-50, 10-63. Her team really isn’t as bad as these lopsided scores might indicate. In some respects, I’d say they are learning more than your players are about being a team.
You may say losing like this is all part of playing basketball these days. Again, I would argue why? The majority of the girls on either team will not go on to play basketball in college, let alone professionally. So again, I ask, what is the point of running up the score? What are you trying to prove? Within minutes of tip-off – I’d guess even before the game even started – you know your team will dominate. Why start with a press? I’ve watched a lot of college basketball games and typically a full court-press is reserved for the last few minutes of a game when the score is really close. However, it seems this has become the go-to defense for three-quarters of the game in high school ball. Why? Your team is obviously better. They don’t need it to win the game. Why not let the other team at least in bound the ball? When the score is 0-25 wouldn’t that be a great time to let one of those players who typically only sees a minute or two of playing time get a chance to play. I know there would be one excited mom out there ( yes, I’ve been that mom too). There will be plenty of other games for your stars to shine. I guarantee it.. She’ll have enough highlight videos.
Basketball is the sport my daughter lives for. She loves to play and works hard. She couldn’t wait for practice to officially start. She was so excited when she found out she made the varsity team and I was excited for her. I worry losing so badly will sour her from wanting to play the sport she loves (who could blame her if she’d wanted to quit). I imagine it is difficult to attract players and build a strong basketball program when the team loses so badly – who wants to sign up for that kind of humiliation? Being new to the school this year, we wondered why there were only two returning varsity players. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. As your proving that your team is a powerhouse by crushing ours, does it ever occur to you that your hurting the other programs in your conference? Wouldn’t your players grow and get better as players if they had better competition too?
I asked my daughter how she’s doing and remind her to focus on things other than the score. She cuts me off, “I know mom!” I ask her if she’d rather play on the JV team and she’s adamant she doesn’t. Her attitude was (and amazingly still is), “It’ll make me a better player.” She is also lucky she has great coaches who check in with her and the other girls and are trying to keep their spirits up. The other parents are supportive as well – decorating lockers, providing team meals and cheering the girls on at home and away.
Losing isn’t fun. Losing is hard. Losing by 70 points is brutal-especially when you have to face your classmates the next day. Yet, I am amazed and so proud of how resilient these girls are. There have been several games where if I were in there place I don’t know if I would have returned to the court after half time. They never give up and they keep trying to improve.
So coach, the next time your team is playing a weaker team, who is obviously struggling, I ask you to imagine your daughter was playing on the other team. Good sportsmanship isn’t just about being a good loser, it’s also about being a graceful winner. It’s about being respectful to the other team, having humility and class. The next time you play a struggling team, I’m not saying don’t play hard or quit trying, but I am asking you to think about taking it down a notch a little sooner.
A Basketball Mom
PS OSHAA Maybe instead of having a running clock when the a team is losing by more than 35, how about changing that to no pressing or 3 point shots instead? That’d make the game a lot more exciting:)