Sometimes life hands you a gift. My present arrived via email from my friend, Carol Hagen, who recently relocated from Northern Virginia to Charlottesville.
Her subject line stated, “This was the first e-mail from Alex's new basketball coach — it's hilarious.” I replied back, “Not only is it hilarious, it’s my next column! I owe you one, and Coach Peter too.”
So, without further ado, this might just be the best (and certainly most refreshing) introductory note ever written by a coach to his new team and it definitely sets the tone for a great season. I know which Charlottesville basketball team I’ll be rooting for this winter…
Warriors Blue 2013
I am going to be the coach of your son’s basketball team this winter. I will now provide way too much information.
Our team was announced yesterday at a meeting held by VABA organizers. We are one of several Warrior teams for the season. We have 9 players and will add a tenth.
I have been waiting quite a while to coach; work has kept me unable to commit the time. I have a lot of pent-up importance about myself as it relates to coaching and I’m going to take it out on your son. I think I am much better at it than I actually am. I should be able to do major damage, so save those nickels and dimes for the ‘psychiatry fund’.
Practice Schedule. Because I am away for work 2 days per week, I have requested Monday and Thursday as our practice days. That has yet to be confirmed.
I need an Assistant Coach. No basketball background necessary. The person’s main role is to manage in-game substitutions and playing time. We are required to give equal playing time to all players (exceptions being for poor effort, lack of following team or league rules). I tend to have no ability to pay attention to anything, so the substitution pattern matters a great deal. If anyone can concentrate for longer than the 10 seconds the Good Lord allotted me, that is the right person.
We need a Team Manager. Having been involved in travel sports for several years as a parent I wouldn’t wish this on an enemy. But, if anyone could show some sympathy and accept the role, I would be very grateful. I’m going to do 90% of the work, so the job shouldn’t be too bad.
We need a Team Sponsor. Again, not something I can comfortably push upon anyone, but it is for a good cause. VABA has as part of its mission to create a lot of scholarships. The sponsorships go toward the funding of the scholarships. It costs $400 and the donor gets their name, or company name, on the team jerseys. If any of you know anyone who may be interested, please let me know as soon as possible. League rules say ‘every team must have a sponsor’.
We need a Team Photographer. If you like that kind of stuff and we create photos or videos, we can upload them to the team website (see below). Pretty fun job I guess.
Team Website. We will have one and I’ll let you know the URL soon.
**THIS IS HUGE** “Student Athlete Commitment Card”. If your son fails to turn them in each week, the league will not allow him to play. They do not make any exceptions. I’ll explain the nature of the cards later, They are actually pretty cool. I’ll give you the cards and you will have to fill them out each week. They are due 25 minutes prior to the game. The league is very strict on this.
Some Things Your Son has to do to be Ready
1. Get a basketball – Size 29.5 oz (regulation for boy’s ball). If you don’t bring a basketball, you won’t be able to practice anything but conditioning.
2. Get some shoes - I don’t care what shoes they wear so long as they are exclusively for basketball for the season. They aren’t permitted by VABA to wear the shoes we play in on the street. You have to carry them into the gym and change them there. I personally do not believe in, or advocate, expensive shoes. I think they are a waste of money. Please don’t feel obligated to buy expensive shoes. Good players can play in any shoes and we are going to try and prove that.
3. Set up communications with me - Email me their email addresses so I can communicate with them.
4. Watch Karate Kid, the original. Wax on, Wax off. That will be how we teach it.
5. Watch Hoosiers, I’m channeling that guy – loads of defense and fundamentals only. Nothing fancy. I was raised playing sports in a steel twn, so my style is pretty similar.
6. Start thinking like we need them to - If they are going practice or goof around at home on your hoop they should limit shot distance to 12 feet, do 10,000 layups from both sides, spend some time in a defensive stance (they will sleep in one when we are done), look on you tube for some rebounding and put-back drills.
7. Get good grades - You have to have them to play. If your son likes to watch basketball they should not watch the stars, watch the workers. That is what we are going to be – a team of workers.
8. Player will be taught to be, and required to be, unselfish. Please tell them to get ready for that.
Every Player is a Guard. NBA point guards stand up to 6’7” tall. We don’t have any of those, and we have no idea what size and type of athlete your son will be. We are just going to teach every kid to play GREAT defense, rebound, hustle, dribble, pass, pass, pass and make layups. They will all be guards.
Team Starters. The following will be the starters:
1. Best defender
2. Best rebounder
3. Best assist person
4. Best layup off the fast break
5. Hardest worker regardless of ability
Team Goals. To have fun trying really hard to learn a few of the fundamentals of basketball (I only know a few).
Parent Cheering. Since you know how we are going to play (Unselfish play, lock down defense, rebounding, fast break for layups) then you should know what to cheer about. I LOVE telling my kid what to do during the game and I yell a lot. It’s cool if you want to. Just be sure you do 2 things: yell about what we are trying to accomplish; and be honest – if they did something poorly, don’t say they did it well. The theme of an excellent rant to your son would be, “Little Johnny, right idea, horrible execution!”. You can also say “C’mon man! Box out!," or “Cut after you pass! Don’t just stand there for gosh sakes”. I’ll teach you all the things to yell. We’ll all yell at them all at once, parents should have fun too.
NEVER talk to the ref, as a team we will never speak to a ref, I will NEVER speak to a ref, and we will respect every call. No player on our team will ever challenge the ref on a call.
NEVER say anything negative about the other team. If we play right it doesn’t matter what they do. We will win fair and square. Scream anything you want, as loud as you want, so long as it meets our team theme.
I’m a bit wild, but we are going to get in great shape and have fun. Please don’t hold anything I do against my wife Edy, she’s really nice. Please forgive me in advance for my ‘excitable nature’. I mean well.
For the record, I contacted Coach Peter Greenberg before running his letter and he told me, “Of course you can print what you want; because I think it may drive my wife over the edge. I’ve been working on that for years.” He also added, “It will serve to enhance my overinflated view of me.”
In our correspondence, he also told me that he and his family had lived in NoVa from January 1996 until July 2011. Per Peter, “We bought the Morrison House on Alfred Street at a bankruptcy auction and operated it for a decade. We moved to Reston in 1997. We sold Morrison House to ING in 2006 and bought a hotel in Lynchburg in 2007, the Kirkley Hotel. We're working on improving that and building another across the street from Duke University. Along the way it just got too difficult to make the drive from Reston to Lynchburg every week. We decided to move to western Charlottesville. We are in love with the Crozet area and are very happy with our choice. All the work left me no time to coach and it is something I've been wanting to do for a long time. So now, living in such a well-balanced place, I've found the time and I'm looking forward to torturing the kiddies. I grew up in a rundown steel town in western PA, New Castle. All the coaches were pretty gruff — direct — and kids today don't do so well with that. It should be fun to see the look on their faces.”