Saturday, March 24, 2007

First Capitol News Sports - Mike McMurran Sports Editor

Lately I’ve been meeting a large number of new faces, I’m sure you understand where and why, and one of the big questions I get is, “What are your hobbies? I can tell a lot about people by their hobbies,” more than one person has said to me. My honest response is usually, “I don’t have any hobbies, I’ve got three kids under the age of 11.” The strangest thing is no one believes me when I say that – but it’s true.

Since no one believes me when I say that, I had to come up with some type of hobbies; without lying of course. So I did a self-evaluation and really did monitor what I did with my spare time. Now my response is, “I am a youth coach. I coach my kids’ teams.” If you know anything about grammar you will notice I used the plural possessive form of the word kid. I have three children and I coach one of each of their sports.

From January until late March I am Maggie’s basketball coach. She and 9 of her classmates play in the CYA league representing their school, Academy of the Sacred Heart. I was somewhat drafted into the position by Dr. Richard Heise, who was the girls’ assistant coach last season, and serves as my assistant this season. Last season was the girls first season of playing basketball – and it showed. They finished with a 2-8 record, and it was sometimes painful to watch them play. I sat in the stands and kept my comments to myself, but thought that with just a little instruction the girls could be pretty good. I’m not the best basketball coach in the world, but quiet honestly I have hung out with some pretty darn good ones. Remember ladies and gentlemen, I teach in Jennings, and for 6 year I was the high school athletic director. One of my responsibilities was to supervise, which means attend all athletic contests – both boys and girls. For 6 years I would attend well over 100, yes one hundred high school basketball games. When you factor in varsity, junior varsity and freshmen teams, boys and girls, not to mention tournaments that I hosted, the number was probably closer to 150. I watched and I learned. These names won’t mean much to the average person, but I’ve watched such successful high school coaches as, Randy Carter, Lance Hash, Danny Thomas and Tom Burniski. Anyone of the 4 gentlemen has forgotten more about basketball than the average person will ever know.

Any way, Maggie’s team began practicing over the Christmas Holiday, I think we practiced about 5 or 6 times. The parents wondered why we were practicing so much and I told them, “We have to learn the offense and the defense if we are going to be successful.” “Offense and defense,” they questioned. “Please remember these girls finished 2-8 last season. Don’t get their expectations too high,” I was told. Anyone who knows me knows if I am going to do something I give it all I have; I might not always accomplish my objective, but never is it due to lack of hard work and effort. Not only did we learn an offense and defense, we learned two offenses: one to attack a zone defense, one to attack a man-to-man defense. Every Friday afternoon from 3:15 until 5:00 you would find Dr. Heise and myself in the gym with 10 5th grade girls, bouncing basketballs, practicing free throws, and learning silly sayings like: “My side, I pick.” Now, please remember where I started – talking about my hobbies and such. On almost every single one of these Fridays we were practicing, the teachers and beautiful Jennings Junior High School, or at least many of them, would go out to happy hour and discuss with each other how they got through the previous week. Each week I would be invited, and each week I would have to tell them, “Can’t, I have basketball practice.”

I’m not sure of the gratification others receive from their hobbies, but if you could see the look on my girls’ faces when they score a basketball. Remember please, they have all been taught that unlike last season, when they score, act as if they have scored before – even though many had not. Last week after Emily Holloran banked in a jump shot, she immediately looked over to the bench to see if her coach had witnessed her success. Of course I did – we made eye contact as she smiled from ear to ear. You see last season when the girls scored, their celebration would make a Super Bowl winning touchdown celebration look mild. I’ve taken a page from the Notre Dame philosophy – act like you’ve scored before. This year I have at least 5 girls who have scored more points in a single contest than all of last year. I know this to be true because my favorite daughter, Maggie Kurtz McMurran is one of them. I have two players, Grace Schwendemann and Isabella Tambone, who are unstoppable when they get the ball down low. Last season they didn’t even know what “down low,” meant. We really don’t have any star players, but the flip side of that is we have lots of depth. When Grace and ‘Bella take a breather we simply substitute Madison Flynn and Kayla Simon – I still don’t know which combination would be first string or second string. We call our guards, “wings,” and that is where Paige Theby and Hillary Padavan do their damage – simple little jump shots or passing the ball down low – whatever the other team gives us. On defense, if we are looking for a quick turnover, I simply put our pit bull, Sarah Heise on the opposing team’s point guard. If you ever saw Sarah play defense you would know why we call he our “pit bull.” Speaking of point guards, our point guard, Elizabeth Francis, is faster dribbling the ball down the court than most are simply running. She has scored countless times on a fast break.

The team will play their final game of the season Saturday against All Saints. Presently we are sitting on a 6-3 record, and no matter what happens Saturday will have improved greatly over last season. I guess what I really want to do here is thank all 10 girls for a wonderful three months. And while I’m at it, a thank you to their parents for trusting me to coach their daughters. I know there was some question at the beginning of the season as to whether or not I knew what I was doing.
Well it looks as if I have run out of space – I was going to write about Joe’s baseball and Dee’s soccer teams. Maybe I should add “writing” to my list of hobbies. See ya next week.