With no more games to play I can finally breathe a sigh of relief because this season was in jeopardy of not happening.
Our 5th grade season did not end very well, we lost every game we played at AAU Nationals by 15+ points, 0-5. But before that I could tell there was some unhappy people due to how things went at the conclusion of GBA Nationals that same year. We knew changes were coming, I just did think we would lose 3 starters.
The 1st to leave, Sophi, was expected because her parents never seemed to be happy with our process. The problem was they were talking to others about them leaving and trying to take players with them. And at no point did they ever tell me what their issues were and I found out through another coach that they were not planning to return next season. So I made the decision to let them know I’ve heard about their plans to leave and I wished them well.
Next to leave was Niko. Her father came to me after a Saturday workout to let me know Niko would no longer be playing with us because he felt she deserved more playing time with all the work she’s putting in. I completely understood and wished them well.
Then I got the text I prayed I’d never get, that Josie is leaving. I totally understood why but I had to call her mother, not to beg for Josie to stay but to let her know I understand and thank her for the opportunity to work with Josie. And that I respected her decision to let me know before she told her new team.
Then came the news we had been expecting to hear but I didn’t want to hear, that Lacee was leaving. It’s wasn’t that she was leaving that we had an issue with, it was the process in which she left. You see Ryan, her father, and I had become really good friends. I’m talking about the type of friendship that we talked daily for hours about everything from basketball to kids to just life in general, so when I got the news it hurt. And I think what hurt the most was me telling him how they operate and how things would play out and him saying they were not leaving. At one point I even said don’t stay because of loyalty stay because this is where you want your daughter and IF that’s not the reason then leave. But he assured me they would not be going anywhere. When the text came from Josie’s mother that she was leaving about 12 hours later Ryan called to say Lacee decided to leave too.
When 3 starters and a bench player leave a team that’s usually cause for concern. Questions are asked, like will there be a team? Can you find more players? And my favorite one, what did Coach do to run kids off? Well, once we had our 1st practice and JMoney, Raine, Smith & Izzy said “We want to play for the Greyhounds this year” I knew we’d be alright.
As the season went on and we had our set roster of 10 players, things started to take shape and players began to know and accept their roles on the team.
We added two players, Kenya and Macie, from the 256 Ballerz to our team halfway through our season and both were a welcomed addition. Kenya gave us a post player with some size and she helped us with a rebounding while Macie gave us a 3pt shooter and another perimeter defender.
We also added Precious and Laneigh, both are new to travel basketball but both worked hard to improve their individual skill set and basketball IQ.
Haleigh has been with the team since 4th grade and has worked herself into the starting lineup. She has improved her skill set as well as her basketball IQ and her on ball defense has been the difference in some games we played.
Then there’s the team baby Ella. Ella’s game exploded this season! She went from 1st player off the bench to starter to sometimes being the best player on the court.
Izzy and Smith have been each other’s biggest cheerleader all while competing against each other for playing time. There was a time that we played them in 3 minute clips and they always subbed for each other. Now they’ve built up their stamina and skill set to the point that we feel comfortable playing them together for long stretches.
JMoney and Raine have been the heart and soul of the team this season. Raine has worked on her ball handling this past off season to help handle more of the load and JMoney has become the unquestioned leader on the court. Both of them have had to work harder and be leaders this season when most outsiders thought we’d fold the team.
You see I heard the whispers but I refused to believe them. I knew that we would have a season but what I wasn’t sure of is how hard we all would be will to work. Well the team came together and worked hard at every practice and every game and for that reason I’m more proud of this team than I’ve been of any of my teams. No team I’ve had has faced the issues that this group faced last offseason and I believe each player has learned something positive about herself that will help her in other areas of her life. They know that they do have it in them to fight uphill and win and that anything is possible.
I’d also like to thank each and every single parent for believing in me when things weren’t looking so good for us and helping me see this season through, because without your help none of this would be possible.
Now that The Season That Almost Wasn’t is over I can breathe a sigh of relief.
J. Bryan Courts