Friday, December 9, 2011

Taking The Big Kid

I'm going to brag about my son, Owen, and I apologize in advance. I think it's natural to praise the things that we find remarkable, and I find Owen to be remarkable. He is remarkable for something that I have nothing to do with. We share many traits--left handed, good at math, creative--but he also has a fierce determination that is unusual for an eight-year old. It's a self-assuredness that I don't have. My hope is to merely focus it, and keep it from moving to cockiness and over-competitiveness, but no matter what he does, it should serve him well through life.

I could focus on many illustrations of his determination, because it comes through whether in school, playing sports or in life. He insisted on playing football--we compromised on flag--and then practiced his butt off, working incessantly to catch the ball better. He went to a skate party, and one of my great faults as a parent was not making him learn to skate to the sounds of Hall & Oates sooner, and in front of kids from school fell down over and over and over but kept getting up. The girl he has a crush on even came over and went around with him as he held on to the wall. That takes guts that most 20 year olds, let alone 8 year olds don't have.

Then, there was last weekend. We've moved on to basketball season. It's his second year playing, and I'm coaching his team this year, which should provide plenty of good material. I'm doing it because he loves it so much. Heightwise, if you go by those growth charts, he's always been in the top 10%, but in this league, we must have the 1% because there have been some big kids.

Normally, he plays guard because he's one of our few players that understands paying attention, playing defense on the ball, passing, and getting back to stop breaks. Through 2 games and 3 quarters, he had played exclusively outside on the guards. This other team had 2 really big kids they rotated, like at least 5'6" big in 2nd grade, and they were skilled too, and were killing us inside on rebounds. 

So before the start of each quarter we pair the kids up, so they know who they are guarding man to man. As we are walking out to lineup for the fourth quarter, Owen tells me, "I want the big kid." I looked at him and was like, "okay, you've got him". He didn't even come up to the other kid's shoulder, who probably had 40 pounds on Owen.  

And that is the determination that I have no idea where it comes from. He went out for 8 minutes and battled the big kid to a draw. On defense, he got position constantly. He denied the ball. He stole in- bounds passes. He took some elbows from a frustrated player, and dished a few back in close quarters. The other kid got some rebounds, but didn't score the entire quarter because he was in a battle every time and was contested.

Meanwhile, on offense, it took Owen about two possessions to figure out that he needed to bring the big man outside, where he had the advantage. He would start down low and come out to the wing, as a decoy, leaving the lane open for repeated layups for his teammates where the opponent had been camped out before. I'd like to take credit for that coaching adjustment, but it was all him. I merely had the acumen to tell him to keep doing that after a couple of possessions.

It was an impressive performance. He scored zero points on the day, and it was a perfect game. He led in fast breaks stopped, jump balls created, passes to teammates, helping out to stop dribble drives, and doing all the little things that coaches love. He's not a coach's son, though, I'm just coaching because I am a go-getter's father. If he brings that kind of determination to anything in his life, he can't help but succeed. I just hope not screw it up too badly.

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