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 April, 2006

A Little Short

The Wahluke Eagles came up short against the Wapato Lil Cubs on Saturday loosing 27-30. The boys hung in there the whole game. They did well on defense and never gave up. Also we started strong against a good team and kept it up the whole game.

Our undoing was a giant of a kid who could get the ball in the paint and bounce it off the glass. We couldn't stop him and that cost us the game. We shut down their fast break with superb defense from Oscar and Freddy. Tony and Gabino did their part roaming looking for a steal and Alan did what he could in the paint.

Tony (Fruit Cup, Pelon, My Little Pony, and a host of other names) fouled out and at the end not having him on the floor kept us from making a three point to tie. As frustrating as the loss was, Juan and I are proud of the boys.

Facing a tough team, we hung in there the whole way. At the games end, a rare thing occurred. Freddy (Black Cat, Black) sat on the bench and cried. The loss hurt him. Freddy played his heart out and did everything he could to keep us in the game. This same kid frustrates Juan and I because in practice we can't tell if he cares but today he showed us that he does. He left it all on the court.

All we told him and Oscar was to leave the court with their heads held high because they played like champions. Our boys played and made a statement. The Eagles showed that they belong with the top AAU teams. Our boys played like champions. And our boys will learn from our loss and be ready next time.

¬°Justia por los campesinos!

29 April, 2006

Playing Our Twins

Christopher repeated the phrase last night as we ended practice and I think it's a good one. Wapato is great team who knows how to handle the ball. The Eagles too know their way around the court and so it becomes a matter of which team is going to work all 24 minutes.

As practice concluded, Mr. Martinez told the boys how excited he was for them and how he wishes he was playing in the game. I shared that sentiment. It is a big game for the boys Number 1 facing off against Number 2.

Mr. Martinez and I also reminded the boys. It is important not to give up, to do their best the whole game, to play as a team, and that no matter the final score they are winners in our eyes.

24 April, 2006

Practice Makes Perfect

The latest standings have Wahluke and Wapato tied for the top spot in the league. (Click the title and the 4th grade boys to see the latest scores from around the league.) Both teams are preparing for their opponent and that translates into sweat. Today we met the boys in Mr. Martinez's class and asked the team what went well these last few games and what things do we need to work on. The boys answered well. We agreed that our passing, opening up the floor, team work, and discipline have helped us.

When it came to looking at what we can work on, they were honest. Nervousness, and improved passing came up, as did increasing our quickness. Juan and I also mentioned that as coaches we need to improve as well.

Then we ran. And today all the boys did well. Christopher (Alien) really hates to run. But today he set the tone by starting and finishing in a consistent manner. As we waited for a few kids to finish, he commented that it starting to get easier.

Back at the gym we worked on inbounding, aggressive defense, and good passing. Again Christopher (also Pretty Ricky and Ghost Boy) started slow and then responded. Not only him but all the boys worked hard.

Later in the scrimmage Cristian too aggressively stuck to his man and forced a turn-over. Cristian even drew a little anger from Antonio when he accidentally hit him as he went for the ball.

Next Saturday's game will be tough. We are playing a solid opponent with skills. Christopher summed it up when he said, "it's like they're our twins." All the boys and the coaches want is for our team to do their best the whole game.

We want them to start and end as teammates. And no matter what the score, they walk off the court as winners in their coaches' eyes.

Oscar Proud

The Wahluke Eagles faced a tough opponent on Saturday and overcame them. The Eagles out scored the Sunnyside Grizzlies #1 25-16 in our first home game this season.

The Grizzlies arrived around two hours early in their new uniforms. They were tall and had skills. From the beginning, our boys looked intimidated. To make matters worse, I was missing. My older brother's Grandfather-in law was celebrating his 90th birthday in Glendora California and I was there on my cell phone badgering Mr. Martinez as he steered the team.

Our problems began from the moment the boys arrived, First of all we had to sell concessions. So while Juan watched the boys selling food, he couldn't supervise the boys who were filling up on junk food before the game. Nor could he find the time to prepare the boys before the game.

Now the Eagles start slow, we always do. Our boys begin sluggish and warm up once the game begins and that's when Juan and I can take the time to prepare them before the game. Today I was missing in action and Juan had his hands full.

When the game began, the Grizzlies won the tip-off and scored. We got the ball back, they stole it and scored gain. Rinse and repeat and it was 6-0 Eagles loosing. Juan called a time-out and our boys looked down. Even Oscar was heard to whisper 'they're going to smoke us'. But Juan reminded them that if we did our jobs, if we played our game, if we did what we knew then we had a chance. And then like the far-away sounds of the bugle announcing the arrival of the reinforcements things began to change. Oscar and Freddy stood at half-court hunting for a steal.

Now the Grizzlies were tall and that meant they dribbled the ball with a little bounce, in fact just enough bounce for them to pull off a steal and lay-in. They in-bound and Oscar and Freddy pull it off again and now we are down by two.

The Grizzlies' coach calls a time-out and my boys become energized. At this point Juan has the boys on a roll and then he's interrupted as I call from California eager for news. The second quarter boys the boys keep it close and then it's half-time.

Juan has the boys quiet and listening as he starts encouraging the boys to keep it-up and do their best. However he is interrupted when I call again from California eager for news. He tells me that it is half-time and he's busy talking to the team. I hang up and spend my time anxiously waiting.

While I sweated the boys played a great game. Lead by Oscar, the whole team played a self-less game. They passed, created space, and took their time looking for the best shot and quietly the blew the game open taking the lead.

Oscar played with the heart of a champion. Oscar is a great player. In practice and in games, he often gives up a shot he can make to pass the ball to another player who is closer to the hoop. He has the shot but doesn't take it because he wants to help the team. Oscar is the kind of player that you coach, watch, and respect. He is a great team leader. Oscar, Antonio, and Gabino are three gifted players with a heart of a gold. If you get the chance watch them play and you'll agree, they are a special young men.

As the game progressed, the other coach became upset at the our full court press. Juan and I didn't feel bad. We take enough abuse from the boys when we make them run a mile once a week, (and yes we run with them). We work on conditioning and making sure our boys are fresh all four quarters.

At the game's end, we won 25-16. The totals were Freddy 11 points, Oscar 4 ( a field goal and one foul shot),and Antonio and Alan each finished with 5. Beyond the points, Juan reported that Big Daddy (Alan) finished with close to 10 rebounds as well. Caedyn too had a great game. He dove on the floor to grab a loose ball, he then executed a pass to Oscar. Plays like that reinforce the idea that everyone contributes to win. It is not just about scoring but doing you're job on the floor.

When the game was over, Oscar called announcing that we lost. My first response was that it was okay because I knew he played hard and did his best. He laughed and said actually that we won. All the boys exclaimed that Freddy had the best game of his life and made most of the points.

Certainly Freddy did a great job and had a great game. However we work as a team and all the boys play a part. All the boys know they play a part. However today its time to recognize that Oscar sets the tone and that today we are all Oscar proud.

Also Juan deserves recognition for coaching the boys and dealing with my phone calls. I asked if the team still need me and he assured me that I am still a part of it all. But on the court, Juan and I cease to matter much. All we can hope for is that the boys will remember two things. The first is that Juan and I are confident in their skills. The second is that win or loose, we care about and respect each one of them.

15 April, 2006

Good Times

Today the Wahluke Eagles overcame the Zillah Bobcats 34-18 in a tough game. But before I continue a little history is needed. A few days before the game, Mr. Martinez were talking about how our boys were getting a little cocky and we were concerned. So a few days later I called Oscar and told him the story that every Sonics fan knows. Namely that the Sonics had the best record one NBA season and faced the lowly Denver Nuggets in the playoffs. Well an overconfident Seattle was outplayed and beaten by the Nuggets who just showed up and did their best.

Well Zillah was the lowest ranked team and we were number one. But today, Zillah played with gusto. They had no quit and put up a great effort. When the game began, Zillah had a 4-0 lead and they were playing solid defense. And their number three was making his shots. So faced with a tough defense and a great shooter, Juan and I looked at the bench and called Freddy (Black, Big Cat, and Black Cat). We told him in English and Spanish stick to number three and become his new best friend. Freddy executed his assignment well and even when thrown to the ground hard, he bounced back with smile, ever so ready to scrap.

When the third quarter began, we had Freddy, Anthony (Fruit Cup, Pelon, My Little Pony), and Oscar (Catfish) doing the full court press and absolutely smothering the Bobcat's inbound pass. My three strongest defenders didn't let them take the ball across the court. Freddy and Oscar put up close to eight points in few minutes. And Tony, even though he did not make any hoops, had his fingerprints on all those points. From that point on we pulled ahead to a commanding lead and never looked back. Freddy finished with four points and Oscar with twelve. And Tony was in the background doing his part to make it happen.

Alan (Big Daddy) finished with eight points, and again he did his job at Center. He got fouled and offense and defense. He got his rebounds and made his shots and showed his character as team player. Gabino (Pickles) had four points, Eduardo had four as well and Christopher two. Caedyn had a shot as did Melchor and Cristian had a look. All the boys did their part.

An extra bonus for me was that my big brother John, his wife Michelle, and my Uncle by marriage Art attended the game as well. John and Art kept score for us and all three cheered and encouraged the boys to do their best. Their support and cheers meant a lot. After the games the boys mentioned that they heard them cheering for them. And since the boys parents don't make the games (Caedyn's parents are the exception), I think they appreciated having vocal fans.

Last week, Juan's brother and sister came as well to keep score and cheer us on as well. Our team is lucky to have a supportive audience. I know Juan and I appreciated their attendance.

As this Spring Season begins, the Wahluke Eagles are off to a good start and after today, all the boys know to respect our opponents and do their best. As always Mr. Martinez and I are proud of the boys and know that when they play together as a team they have chance to win.

08 April, 2006


The Wahluke Eagles opened the Spring season with a convincing win over Sunnyside Christian on Saturday. The final score was 20-6 with Mattawa on top. But behind the score a story is waiting.

We were down a driver and that left nine player with spaced for eight between Mr. Martinez and my car. So with a heavy heart, I called Cristian on Friday night saying that we could not take him to the game.

Saturday morning I arrive at the gas station to learn that Freddy can't go to the game, that opens a space. I call Cristian and say get ready, luckily for us, he says okay. We pick him up and head to Sunnyside, five hours ahead of game time. We left early to scout out the Wapato Lil Cubs. They are ranked second place and we are ranked first in this league, and we want to do our best.

After we watch Wapato demolish their opponent, we have three hours to kill. Mr. Martinez is content to watch hoops, while I take kids to terrorize the local Wal-Mart. Around 1:50PM we start to warm-up against our opponents, Sunnyside Christian.

Now you have to see our team to appreciate how short we are and how tall our opponents were today. However as the kids became nervous we instructed the boys to start speaking Spanish. If the other team uses their height and uniforms to unnerve my boys, we are ready to use the tools we have to our advantage. Speaking Spanish has two purposes, the first to is make our opponents upset and the other is to connect our boys to their roots. As the debates continue, I want to make a statement. Campesinos deserve justice.

When the game began, Sunnyside struck first and lead 4-0. When Oscar attempted a good lay-in and missed, I was told that the other team and bench laughed. All I knew is that he was upset but having the heart of a champion, he didn't want to quit. Pretty soon we fought back and tied the game 4-4. Then they pulled ahead 6-4 and still had smirk until Gabino (aka Little People, Pickles, and Afro Dude) hit a three point swish. His shot silenced the other team and got us going. Sunnyside Christian finished the first quarter with six points and they did not score again.

When the second quarter began, we got into gear. Oscar and Gabino, or Tony waited for the other team to inbound the ball, then they attacked the player with zeal. They forced bad passes and intercepted them. When Sunnyside got the ball in the paint our forwards and center did their job and forced a bad shot. And even though we were shorter, our hustle lead to us getting the ball.

All the boys helped and took good shots. Christopher (aka Alien) made no points but he had several good attempts that just rimmed out. Out of eight players, six made shots. Our leading scorer was Alan who finished with six. The others were Tony (5). Oscar (4), Gabino (3), and Eduardo(2). Melchor to had some shots that fell short. At the end of the game we set up Cristian for a lay-in. Oscar passed to Tony who in turn gave Cristian a great pass, he shot but the ball just fell short. Then the whistle blew and the game was over. Cristian had a 1000 watt smile and that made it all worth while.

The boys were ecstatic and the coaches as well. We met a taller opponent and we overcame them. Our team leader encountered a hostile environment and he overcame it. We didn't have our veteran defender and Alan stepped up and did his job. And I hope that in this environment of immigration discussion, that we made a statement (in English and Spanish) namely don't underestimate us and give us a chance to succeed and perhaps you'll be surprised.

Click the link teamwork to see our standings as the season progresses.