Hoops tip-off cause for excitement

On the Ball column by Craig Lindsay, Dec. 16 Grand Forks Gazette.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No I’m not talking about Christmas, although that’s nice too. I’m talking basketball season. As an avid basketball fan, I love this time of year. I coach, watch on TV and occasionally even lace up the shoes and play myself.

This year I’m coaching the junior girls team at the high school here. Every year has challenges, not the least of which is managing time. But I do it to watch the improvement in the players. December can be frustrating because as a demanding coach I want them to be perfect right now but I have to remind myself to be patient. As long as the players work hard and listen, they will get there. Maybe not perfection but I am confident they will become very good.

I have to remind myself again that the offensive systems (plays) we run aren’t all that important in the scheme of things. It’s much more about learning the skills about how to get open, how to shoot, how to pass, how to dribble etc. If the players can do that, it doesn’t really matter what plays you run—the team will be successful. There is a tendency for coaches—or maybe just me—to want to spend (waste?) practice time on endlessly practicing plays. Even though if you can’t do the above (get open, dribble, etc.) it won’t matter.

As for watching basketball, I try to catch the college and pro games on TV. With all the new sports channels (TSN and Sportsnet), there are plenty of options.

Playing wise, let’s just say I’m a little past my prime. I really was never that good to begin with but I’ve always had fun. When I went to university in Victoria I used to play noon hour rat ball once or twice a week. The rat part comes from “gym rat.” It was a wide range of guys who came out as well as the occsasional woman. We had university professors who were in their 50s and 60s and some of the young varsity players.

One of the guys I played with was named Vic and he was a little older and was an ex-CFL player. Vic was a great athlete as you would expect but wasn’t an all-star player by any means. But he loved to coach out of the floor. If you weren’t busting your buns, he would let you know.

There was no shortage of trash talk on the court. Sometimes I thought that guys were more interested in coming up with good trash talk than hitting their jump shots. Calling fouls is another contentious issue. Generally, unless someone is sent to the hospital you don’t call fouls in pick-up basketball. Of course, there are always exceptions. You occasionally get the “I missed my shot, therefore you must’ve fouled me” guy, or the dude who runs you over and calls a foul on you.

On the court I did a little bit of everything, which is a fancy way of saying I wasn’t really good at anything. But I had fun. My favourite time was during March Madness, which is the year-end U.S. college basketball tournament. A bunch of us would play hard and then head over to the campus pub to watch the games, eat nachoes, drink beer and brag about our game.

These days it’s hard enough just to get my shoes on. Afterwards I need about a week to recover.

Luckily I still have my jump shot, or so I’d like to think.