Wahluke Eagles

This blog describes the joys of coaching an AAU basketball team from Mattawa, WA. Our team and town is roughly 90% Mexican. The blog celebrates and describes life in a central Washington town through the eyes of the players and their coaches.

Location: Mattawa, Washington, United States

I work as a School Psychologist in the Wahluke School District. When I am not coaching I enjoy fishing, reading, and riding my bike.

30 January, 2006

A Tough Game

For the first time in over thirteen months, the Wahluke Eagles lost a game against a tough opponent. We played the East Valley Mules, the top-ranked team in the AAU league and just fell short. The final score was East Valley 39- Wahluke 23.

As the game slipped away in the third quarter, some boys were quite upset. Oscar, who played the whole game, was crying. He had hit the floor hard during a couple of scuffles for the ball, he was frustrated from being tripled-teamed, and just didn't want to loose. The players on the bench were telling me that he was crying and that I should take him out. Mr. Martinez and I called him over to the sideline and asked if he wanted out. He said no. Like a good captain with a dose of British phlegm, he went down with the ship, fighting till the end.

The boys played well but our defense was haphazard, our ball control off, and our shot selection lacking. Several times we got a steal, took the ball down court, and instead of working the system, one of the boys threw up a shot that missed. Also we allowed Oscar to get trapped and failed to capitalize on it by making a quick pass and an accurate shot.

After the game, we called a team meeting in the hallway of East Valley Middle School. With the boys slumped against the lockers, some of them crying, and all looking dejected, I gave them the speech that I hadn't had to give for over a year. I reminded them that they played hard and that they never gave-up even when things looked grim. Mr. Martinez reminded them that even though it hurts, they had to use this experience to help them get better. Lastly we told them that they had nothing to be ashamed of and that we should leave the court with our head held high.

21 January, 2006

Glory Road

Met the boys, Mr. Martinez, Caedyn, and his family at the 76 station and headed to the big city. We arrived at the theaters. All of the boys were quite excited, for most of them, it was their first or second time at the cinema. Christian felt a little apprehensive as the movie was in English and he spoke very little if it. We found our seats and took almost a whole row with 11 boys, 2 coaches, and a mom and dad.

The film did not disappoint. The audience watched the basketball scenes and responded to them as if were a live game. The message resonated with the audience as well, namely this team faced adversity, worked hard, overcame internal and external challenges, and demonstrated that boys and men playing games with balls and hoops can improve the world.

When the pizza arrived one of the boys was being goofy and wouldn't sit with the team. Oscar (one of the captains) turned to him and said, "didn't you learn anything from the move we just saw." Oscar gets it, discipline, hard work, and team work create winners.

After the film, we went to COSTCO for pizza, specifically for pepperoni pizza because that is all the boys like. As we were eating, Oscar asked if we could have Sunday's practice in the Middle School instead of their school since that's where our home games are located. I asked Gabino (the other captain) what he thought and he agreed, plus he added, "it's a bigger court so that means harder suicides." Most of the boys groaned but agreed so the switch was made. We took over three tables, ate, joked around, then divided up the boys and headed home. I had Alan, Christopher, Eduardo, and Christian in my car as we left town and the fun continued.

Eduardo saw or claimed he saw a Volkswagen Beetle, so he exclaimed slug bug and began smacking everyone on the shoulders. If you want him to stop, you must respond safety. Well his myopia was contagious and soon all the boys were seeing Beetles and smacking the others. Everyone said safety except for Christian, I guess they don't play slug bug south of the Rio Grande. The boys explained that he had to say safety. Later on when the pounding resumed, I heard his voice in accented English exclaim, "Safety".

Once we got ten miles out of the city and were driving on a desert highway to Mattawa, there were precious few cars so nobody could 'see' a Beetle. Boys being boys didn't need an excuse to smack each other around. It was even play each boy got as good as he gave and they never stopped laughing through it all. They even played squeezing the other guy's knee till he said Uncle (or Tio). One time Christian was getting it at the same time from Eduardo and Christopher so he started saying "Uncle, Tio, Tia, help."

Dropped the boys home, happy that we went. Caedyn's dad summed it up best when we left COSTCO, this excursion was a good idea. Between the pizza and punching, the boys got the message- Discipline, Team work, and Hard Work pay dividends.

19 January, 2006

Movie Previews

Had the whole team meet me in Mr. Martinez's room during afternoon recess. The goal was to build excitement about seeing Glory Road this Saturday. For a few of the boys, this will be their first time going to the cinema, and they are excited.

Getting to the theater is difficult from Mattawa. One reason is that it's a 100 mile plus round trip. Another reason is the cost. Fortunately I have help. Mr. Martinez and Caedyn's parents are going to help drive. And to keep the down the cost, I'm going to take the boys to pizza at COSTCO. If they're still hungry, they can graze off the plethora of free samples.

Anyway, the boys loved the trailer and are excited and ready to go. I've had several other kids ask to attend and had to turn them down as well as the boy's siblings. We restricted this to the team as a means of getting them ready for some tough games ahead. Our new mantra is discipline, team work, and hard work will helps us reach our goals.


16 January, 2006

Moving on up

When we entered AAU in the fall, we were placed in the lowest division. Out of 28 teams, we were ranked 28th. After enjoying the successes of the last six games and going undefeated, the boys and the coaches were eager to be moved up to stiffer competition. Well, we got our wish.

The newest rankings put our team in the second highest division as the 11th team out of 31. The lowest team in our division in Mabton, the same team that we barely beat with a winning shot with 20 second remaining in the game.

I shared the news with the boys and reminded them that our days of easy games and twenty point wins have to come to an end. Freddy (back from Mexico) shrugged and said, "Oh well, I guess will just win all our games by one point then."

Later as they were lined up to run suicides, Mr. Martinez and I told the boys about the importance of facing challenges and overcoming obstacles. Being an educator, I couldn't resist using a concrete example. Resorting to the tried and true analogy of bike riding, I reminded them how the CYO league was like training wheels, and being in the lowest division was like riding a bike with no gears. Now we're on a mountain bike and going faster. I think they got the point.

Here's the link to the league standings. http://www.ieaau.org/yakimaleague/2006/winter/4boys.pdf


Pre Season Jitters

Going undefeated has taken a toll on the boys. They keep asking me who our opponents will be and what happens when we loose. Antonio summed up this anxiety yesterday when he said, "I wish our next game never comes." Luckily a few of the boys are more level-headed. Oscar, who has his moments of cheekiness, has said he's ready of we loose as long as he does his best during the game.

Our first game could be as soon as next Saturday, so we shall see.