I watched our freshman basketball team in their opening game last week. The team features twelve players that were selected from thirty or so players that tried out, and with the exception of the four freshman on my JV team represent the best our school has to offer. I am certain the opposing team was chosen in the same way. The game was brutal to watch. Neither team scored for over four minutes. The game finished with both teams scoring in the twenties, and turnovers likely equaled points. The pace of play ranged intermittently from mechanical to frenetic. This is not to disparage freshman basketball, but to place it in a developmental context.
It is the base of the pyramid of high school basketball where fundementals and structure are introduced. Of the twelve players, some will never play again for the school, while others will improve so dramatically as to be almost unrecognizable from the players they are now. The difference between the two groups of players will be physical and mental. Some players will find passion in playing the game and put in the extra hours to improve.
I am reminded of Whip Green from my time at Oviedo. He was a competent freshman player, who rebounded well, but couldn’t score from more than two feet from the basket. The next season, he extended his range to twenty feet and decided a JV game with a critical three.
My current JV team features four freshmen, who are ahead of their peers in physical development, skill and mental focus. Truth be told their skill level is ahead of even some of our sophomores. Their mental focus though is a work in progress and will define their contribution to our season. Each of the players is bright and put forth a commendable effort, but are playing catch up in the nuances of high school basketball. I must remind myself not to skip steps in their development and to continue to fuel their passion for the game which is ultimately the key to their progression.
Then their is my son Bryson. He is a freshman, and along with two freshmen teammates is playing varsity soccer. I am proud of him, but this is what I expected of him this season. Over the last four years, he has trained 5-7 days a week and played 50-70 games a year against some of the best age group competition in the country. Through his commitment he has earned his right to play at the varsity level. Varsity soccer has provided meaningful challenges on and off the field. He has had to earn his minutes, often out of position, and he has had to find his own voice by learning to communicate with his coaches as a young adult, not a kid anymore. This was probably the aspect of high school soccer he was least prepared for, but may reap the most enduring reward.