Over the years as a coach’s wife, I’ve become friends with this bittersweet feeling at the end of every season. Of course, I am happy to have my husband back. Nonetheless, I am always grieved to say goodbye to the team. Every year, every group of guys–they give me reasons to love them.
This year was no different. Except that it was a little. My freshman son found a spot on the team this year, and I found myself twice invested.
We lost out at State B yesterday and the 2013-14 season is finished. While it’s fresh, I want to catalog some of my favorite moments.
1) that Senior Night during regular season in Ritzville. In the final minutes, it was clear that we would lose the game. A senior autistic boy was subbed into the game for Lind-Ritzville/Sprague. Chris, one of our seniors, noticed the sub, ran over to their timeout huddle, and whispered to their captains, “We’ll back off of him and let him shoot.” With under a minute left, the boy got the pass in the far corner and let the ball fly. It arched beautifully and fell through the net for 3 points. All of us went wild for him.
2) that win at District to get us into the District Championship. We finished 4th in our league this year. In the second game of districts, we had to face Lind-Ritzville/Sprague again. They were heavy favorites, as they finished 2nd in our league and are the 2-time defending State Champions in football. About halfway through the game, after my freshman son had made a few 3-pointers, a friend I was sitting near called to me, “Your boy is looking good tonight, mama.” To my right was a retired Colfax coach who I didn’t really know but had been bantering with throughout the game. He looked at me with a surprised look and said, “Number 13 is your son? That means your husband is the coach?” I nodded a meek yes and gave him an awkward smile. When we pulled off the upset, he leaned over and said, “Good game, mama.” I just shook my head and replied, “I can’t believe we got them.” It was a nice moment between kindred spirits. And a sweet moment for this mama who has witnessed her little boy put in hours of practice. As a kindergardener, he would count out 1000 dribbles and 100 shots a day. He loves this game.
3) that eve of State B team dinner. Our girls’ and boys’ teams happened to be having their team dinners in the same neighborhood the night before State B began. Unbeknownst to the coaches and adults, the senior boys had an idea. They led the boys’ team out the door and down the street. They surprised the girls with a knock and a question: “Can we pray for you?” In the living room, they made a circle around the girls and prayed for them. Then they switched places and the girls prayed for the guys. As a mom of a freshman boy-turning-into-a-man, I will forever be grateful for the leadership and mentorship of the 4 seniors on this team.
4) that morning of our first State B game. Two of our senior players walked across the arena to introduce themselves to our opponents for later that day. They had the best intentions, but our opponents were already, and understandably, in game mode. The friendliness wasn’t met well and the school’s athletic director asked our boys to leave. I first learned about it from a couple of moms from the other team in the bathroom a few hours later. They were apologetic and now realized our guys didn’t have an ulterior motive. I share this particular story because it highlights something this group of guys has done this year: they have reached outside of themselves like no other team I have witnessed. (Except maybe that 2004 team who played poker in a hotel room with Brewster after we played them in the State Championship, ha!) Reaching out to opponents before games was just something the guys did in our league this year and many of the players throughout the league became friends.
5) that final handshake on Friday at State B. In the last minutes, it was clear we would lose our final game of the season, ironically again to Lind-Ritzville/Sprague. As the buzzer sounded, I watched with a lump in my throat as the two teams lined up to shake hands in what was the longest, most weirdly loving handshake line I think I’ve ever seen. Each player had a hug and a word for each other. Two different L/R-S coaches put their arms around my freshman son’s shoulders and spoke encouraging words. God only knows why our fates were inextricably intertwined this season.
It’s a bummer that our team won’t be playing on Trophy Saturday. But really, in light of it all, these guys are winners in ways much bigger than basketball. That’s exactly why we play the game.