Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Putting Out Fires

We play Hughes Middle School on Wednesday night in what is definitely our biggest game so far. Part of the difficulty of coaching middle school basketball is the vast uncertainty connected with every aspect of the job. Here's what I've had to manage during the past week:

• One of my players, Lemont, was involved in a fight last Thursday. I don't think the fight actually happened, but it seems that he was a part of a group that was rushing off campus after school to challenge another group to a fight. (Obviously, Lamont should've been at practice at the time.) Although no punches were thrown, there is concern because of racial undertones which colored the confrontation. Lamont and his group are black, and their combatants were Latino. There's been a fair amount of tension between these two subcultures on our campus this year, so there's always a worry that things could flare up again. As for Lamont, I haven't spoken to him since last week, nor have I had time to speak to the administrator who handled the situation. I'll have to see what I can find out tomorrow, but one thing I already know is that Lamont won't be playing.

• I received a phone call on Monday night from the Hughes coach. He was calling, essentially, to ask if I was cheating. Apparently one of his boys knows Raynard, and knows that he's not the best student in the world. He told his coach that he didn't feel there was any way that Raynard could have qualified academically to play. (Our district policy states that all student-ahtletes must maintain a 2.0 GPA.) It first I didn't really think anything of this call, but eventually I came realize that there really is no difference between accusing a person of lying and asking if he is. Anyway, I assured the coach that everything was okay.

• Michael, a boy who is in my English class and on the team, has taken a turn towards oblivion. Michael was also in my class in the sixth grade, so I know him well. He's a challenging student in the classroom, one who talks constantly and enjoys any type of attention. In the gym, he's a big kid, but unpolished. Last Thursday, however, he shut down completely. He sat in my class for two hours and did absolutely nothing, and he refused to talk to me about what was bothering him. In fact, he denied that anything was wrong. He had another bad day today, and I'm leaning towards kicking him off the team just because I'm not interested in spending three-and-a half hours with him every day. We'll see what happens.

All of which brings us to Wednesday's game. We had a good practice on Tuesday, implementing a new offense to go against the 1-3-1 zone that I expect to see from Hughes, and working on our full-court press. Both of these looked pretty good, so I'm feeling pretty good about things. A win tomorrow puts us in first place alone and essentially clinches the league title, which would be nice. Also, I have never beaten Hughes in a game that really matters. They are almost always terribly talented, and their coach is probably the best in our league, so a win tomorrow would mean a lot to me as well. Hopefully everything will go well.