The basketballs have stopped bouncing on the Cut Off Youth Center’s concrete floors on a Tuesday night this past fall.
The children that used to occupy the floor are now gone – off to the comforts of home.
All that remain in the recreational facility are myself, my brother, my 8-year-old nephew and another parent and his young son.
“Hey Casey – come over here,” the parent calls to me from the other side of the gym.
This usually means trouble. I am a youth basketball coach within South Lafourche Biddy Basketball. Together with my brother Aric and family member, Mr. Kirk Hebert, we guide a 7-and-8-year-old boys’ team named the Egrets.
I also coach an Iddy Biddy girls’ team with my cousin Scotty – a team that we proudly call the Tarpons.
But back to the story at hand.
As I get to the parent, he pats me on the back and asks a question.
“How do you do this, man?” he asks.
Not knowing what the heck he was talking about, I answered in the best and most intelligent way that I could.
“Huh?” I replied. Genius, I know.
“You have a busy, time consuming job,” he finishes. “Why do you coach these kids? You’re not a dad. You don’t have to be here.”
I answered the parent at the time with a short, generic answer about how I love sports and love to stay active within the game.
Everything that I said was true, but the response felt incomplete.
After contemplating about the topic more, I thought I’d use my space to elaborate on this and share more thoughts about why I (and others) choose to be a youth coach.
Firstly, the person who asked the question is 100 percent correct. I don’t have nearly the time to be a Biddy coach. My job requires me to be up and down three parishes covering a slew of sports. By the end of the week, I am exhausted. I would love to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday and do absolutely nothing.
Likewise, my brother, Mr. Kirk and Scotty are in the same shoes – we all have jobs that net us very little free time within the week.
But despite the lack of time available and the obstacles that this commitment presents, we do it anyway.
It’s all about the kids.
I coach Biddy Basketball teams because there is not a feeling in the world better than the smile on a child’s face after he/she does something right for the first time.
The pride within them is enough to keep any person young – no matter your age. It’s also what keeps me coming back for more – year after year – despite my lack of available time within the week.
I’ll give a few examples.
My Iddy Biddy girls’ basketball team played its first game of the season two weekends ago. In our first quarter, the girls didn’t understand the basic concepts of defense. As a result, we gave the opposing team several clean looks at the basket – shots that resulted in hoops for the opposing team.
In Iddy Biddy, we do not keep score, nor crown a winner or loser – it’s all about teaching the game. But at the end of that first quarter, Coach Scotty and I stressed to our girls the importance of being aggressive on the floor.
We finished the game without allowing another basket. We scored many more baskets of our own.
After the game was over, several of our players lamented that they didn’t want the game to end – they wanted to keep playing.
To see six children aged from 5-to-6-years-old working in unison – it was awesome.
I entered the gymnasium that morning groggy, tired and longing for more sleep.
I left it wishing that I had other teams to coach and other kids to guide.
A day later, it happened again – this time for my Egrets.
Unlike my young ladies, the boys’ team does keep score within its games. Prior to last weekend, we’d been blessed to win all three of our games to start the season.
But on this Sunday, we faced a stiff challenge – a morning game with a team called the Trojans. They are coached by a good friend of mine – Mr. Ashton Dillon. The Trojans are a tough team – they easily presented the toughest challenge of the year for my Egrets.
That challenge became even tougher when we fell behind 5-0 at the end of the first quarter – a hole that is very tough in youth basketball because of the lack of offense within the game.
But we rallied, pushed forward and won the game by a score of 18-9.
We are now one of just a handful of teams within our league to still be undefeated.
A total of five players scored for us in the win – two players recording their first baskets of the season. The two youngsters without points had a big hand in the win – especially on the defensive end of the floor. It was a total team win.
Following the win, the young Egrets walked around the gym – holding their heads up in pride following their latest victory.
As a coaching staff, my brother, Mr. Kirk and I all shared in that joy.
The hard work that we had deposited with the team in practice had paid off and we had earned a solid victory.
When it was all over, we departed and went our separate ways – back to the jobs that take 40-plus hours from us each week.
But when the weekend comes around, we’ll do it all over again – without complaint, nor angst.
Spare time is amazing, but seeing our kids learn life lessons through sports is even better.
Forget sleep – I can do that some other day.
I’ll be coaching Biddy Basketball for a long, long time.
The memories that I’m making there will last a lifetime.