Despite coaching basketball for over twenty years Socrates still manages to make the same stupid mistakes he tries to teach his young players to avoid. The old fool turns up for a game of pick-up with a bunch of fellow old coots and manages to make a complete goose of himself by doing precisely what he knows doesn’t work! The moral of the story? Even if you are playing with a bunch of sixty year olds, good principles still apply!
I’ve got a way better cross-over dribble now than I had forty-five years ago. My left hand was non-existent at the age of seventeen. I couldn’t dribble penetrate to save my life back then. My eighteen-year old daughter may be able to beat me in a game of one-on-one these days, but I can still burn past her and make it to the hoop quite regularly despite her being a good player and me being well into my sixties.
A few weeks back my high school basketball team got together for a forty-five-year basketball reunion. It was a pretty good turnout. Our Texan point-guard, who has the strikingly original nickname of “Tex”, came all the way from the USA to shoot some hoops with us. The only no-shows were “Chook” (a fleet-footed two-guard) who, at some stage in the last forty years, left us for the great locker room in the sky and “Stu” (a tenacious defender and hard-running guard) who had recently had heart-surgery and, despite our urging, was taking his surgeon’s advice to take it easy for a few weeks. No doubt “Stu” will join us for our fifty-year gathering where no excuses, at all, will be considered acceptable.
“We’re playing half court?”
One sissy among us declared that we should save our rickety bones by playing half court. Despite my disagreement, the murmurs of assent from the rest of those gathered encouraged me to keep my mouth shut. Teams were selected. It was decided that me, “Warialda”, Tim and “Boozer” should take on “Tex”, “Rocky”, Rob and “Bradles.” We all agreed to play man-to-man defence. A zone, even among blokes in their mid-sixties, would have been an unacceptable admission of incompetence and cowardice.
Despite the passing of forty-five years (which is an enormous amount of time to get one’s act together) none of us had gotten much better. Well, the one exception might have been Rob who, despite still falling short of Lebron James in terms of shooting, dunking and dribbling, made up for any skill shortcomings with considerable improvement in the areas of fitness and all-round, mongrel. Rob played well. “Tex” could still pass a bit. “Boozer” still had something that looked a bit like his classic “euro-step.” “Rocky” was still quick. The rest of us looked like we had potential… but execution, even after forty years of development, was still a problem.
Cross-over added to repertoire
I would have liked to have demonstrated the improvement in my “cutting to the basket” game. No doubt my defence is not what it used to be. My jump-shot is a feeble ghost of the weapon it once was. My running and passing games were never great but they are now down-right ugly… and that is being polite. My right hand to left hand cross-over dribble and explosive charge to the hoop, on the other hand, is something that I have added to my repertoire in recent decades and given the twenty-five percent increase in bulk (and commensurate losses in speed and agility) of my buddies I should have been able to put it to good use. But I didn’t. I fucked up.
I have been coaching kids to play basketball for many years. While “never” is a word that has very little place in a sport coach’s dictionary there are some things that athletes try that rarely turn out well. Coaches try to discourage their players from doing these things. Here are a couple of basketball examples. Firstly, dribble penetration can be an effective weapon (even against a zone defence), but it is rarely a good option when you first come up the floor and have not even gotten the defence moving with a few passes around the perimeter of the zone. Make it a rule in life… avoid, like the plague, dribble penetrating as a first offensive option. Secondly, choose your victim well. If you are going to dribble penetrate, it is rarely a good idea to pick the fastest defender on your opponent’s team as your hand-picked victim. Believe me. It rarely works out. Make it another rule in life… when you dribble penetrate, choose a big slow forward or centre as your victim.
Get the old bastards lumbering about first!
Like I said, I fucked up. I broke two of the rules I had been teaching kids for twenty years all in the one play. Brilliant. Complete idiot. Slowly, up the floor I came thinking to myself “okay… its time I showed these blokes how to dribble penetrate.” Not for a moment did it occur to me that a few passes around the perimeter to get these slow old bastards lumbering about might have been a good idea as a first option. Didn’t occur to me. Neither did I bother to look at my defender to see that it was “Rox” crouched down like a leopard in his defensive stance. Not for a moment did I bother to consider that “Rox” always had been (and still may be) our fastest defender and steal specialist.
I got what I deserved. As I crossed the ball from right hand to left and stepped to “Rox’s” right, like a flash of lightning he swooped past me, stole the ball out of my left hand, and thundered back to the half-way line to complete my humiliation. Pathetic. Hopefully, I learned another important rule to teach team members I coach in the future. Make it a third rule of life that sound basketball principles always apply. Even after forty-five years, with a bunch of blokes that are in their mid-sixties, the rules still apply. You can’t do dumb shit and get away with it.
Coming for Warialda!
So… I look forward to our fifty-year basketball reunion. Hopefully we will all be able to make it. It will be great to see “Stu” who didn’t make it this time. Hopefully, “Chook” will be with us in spirit, if not in person. Hopefully, “Tex”, the Texan, will be able to make it again to show off his slick passing skills. In the meantime, I will be working on my cross-over dribble and penetration game. My shooting, running and defence will be even worse but my driving to the hoop will be better! Just one thing though. I’m not going anywhere near “Rox.” It’s you I am coming for “Warialda!”