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This year might be it for coaching basketball. The first team I coached was back in 1994 while at Winona State. This will be my 20th season of coaching basketball, and while I never say never, it seems like a fitting time to hang up my whistle. But I’ve said that before.

Going into the 2006-2007 season, I had been coaching junior high basketball since I started here. However, I knew that I wanted to help coach my daughter’s group when they entered 3rd grade and figured I could use a break from coaching, knowing that I’d have to approach elementary players differently than I did junior high players. Thus, in 2010 I brought the whistle out of retirement and took on that task. My longtime readers know that I’ve had a blast coaching that group of girls and am happy with their development.

I had hoped at one point that there would be coaches in place in junior high and I’d be able to sink back into the stands. That was not the case, and anyway, I’d developed the itch to again coach a full season of basketball and was pleased to finish my time with those girls last year.

That’s right, my time with them is done. Even though I’ll still be coaching junior high girls’ basketball, I’ll have the group behind my crew, this year’s 7th graders. Our varsity coach would like my girls to hear a different voice, and I wholeheartedly agree. We’ve all reached a point where we know each other so well that moving forward is more difficult. I still get to coach and will still work sometimes with the 8th graders, but they will have a different voice at the lead.

And I couldn’t be happier with that lead voice, Kate Quam. I coached Kate years ago and was always pleased with her 100% work ethic and competitiveness. She busted her tail for me that year and was part of one of the more memorable teams that I’ve had the privilege of coaching. The chance to mentor a young coach, especially one who already understands how I operate, is exciting.

I know she’ll demand the respect of the girls. I know she’ll have high expectations for them. I know she’ll kick their butts if need be. But I also know that she will care about them and will soon discover the connections you make as coach and player go so far beyond what you see in the classroom. There’s something about running and sweating for someone that adds a new layer to a relationship!

And those relationships are what coaches value so much. I’ll admit to feeling proud that one of my players is eager to coach and still remembers so much of what she did back in 8th grade for my team. Like I always tell my teams, once you play for me and put up with my eccentricities for a year, you can come and ask for help anytime; that bond will stay solid.

With that in mind, I especially want to recognize those girls who were part of my last group from the start, those that started basketball in 3rd grade and played all five years I was the coach: Mackenzie Butler, Katie Cliff, Jayna Domeier, Mia Farr, Madi Kormann, Sydney Koziolek, Skylar Lembke, Tiara Malakowsky, Paige Peterson, Annie Prigge, Makenzie Sundve, Micaela Vaale, and Diamond Woollard. They might not all be playing again this year and likely will not all be playing by the time they graduate, but I’m appreciative that so many stuck through it for five years; believe me, I’m not always easy to play for!

Helping with all this the past four seasons has been Todd Born. I’ve praised Todd before, but I’ll embarrass him one last time. Todd and I had an adversarial relationship prior to that; after all, he was a referee and I was a coach! I didn’t always like his calls and he didn’t always like my sideline demeanor. However, I now consider Todd a friend. His help has been invaluable these past four years, and we provide two different perspectives that often help get the girls to the best outcome for their basketball careers. I’m so pleased that he’ll be volunteering again this year to help Kate and me. His experience will help Kate grow as a coach and will continue to help both our original group and my new group to get better.

I love coaching, and I’ll put everything I have into this year, just as I have every other year. But in the back of my mind, I keep hoping the coaching staff at the high school will remain stable so I can enjoy the four years of high school from the stands and behind the microphone and watch the fruits of our labor bear results. Plus, I hope the boys program is covered so when my son comes through, I can do much of the same. Again, I never say never, but it might be time for the whistle to be hung up for good this February.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is dotterel, which means someone who is easily fooled, as in, “The coach worked on the dotterel to get all the calls his team needed.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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