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.

26 February, 2007

With A Little Help From His Friends

If one listened carefully last Saturday, they may have heard a gentle thud as the Wahluke Eagles nudged Prosser Heat 30-27 in a close game. Two monkeys fell off the back of the Wahluke Eagles, the first was the string of eight losses and the second was a the inability to stave off an opponents comeback.

The Eagles started strong but the ball couldn't find the hoop. Prosser too had trouble and at the end of the first Wahluke lead by one. The offensive drought continued into the second quarter as well but at the start of the third, the Heat got hot. Prosser stormed ahead to roughly a seven point lead. Oscar looked frustrated as all his effort and hustle was coming to naught once again. The other players on the court began to falter as well as it looked like the Eagles were doomed once again. Then with a little help from his friends, things began to change.

It started when Oscar was fouled and had two free throws. He missed them both but then a quick thinking Alan (Big Daddy) pounced on the rebound and did a weak side lay-in to score. Two quick points with a great deal of symbolism attached. Previously, Oscar carried the load as the spark with his constant hustle and the responsibility of being the distributor of the ball and when things got tough the burden of his role wore him down. And when Oscar went down, often times no one took his place. Other experienced and talented players would want to be taken out of close games in the fourth quarter rather than give it all and risk coming up short. After all it hurts to do all you can and loose. But this time the team was committed and when Oscar's shots went cold, his teammates kept us in it.

With three minutes left in the game the floodgates opened. In the span of one minute the Eagles went from being five points down to two points up. The turn around game because all the players did their job. Oscar, Gabino, and Eduardo kept tough full court press, stole balls, trapped the opponents, and forced bad passes. Alan seized errant balls and got them into the shooters hand. And Dario (Big D) sprinted down the court to make the rebounds that gave our players second looks.

Prosser never gave up and fought well to the end. With one second left, they had the ball at the far end of the court. Our defense was ready as Prosser inbounded the ball but they were unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer sounded. The players, fans, and coaches were all smiles as we earned our first win of the long Winter season. After the game, we enjoyed homemade tamales courtesy of Big Daddy's mom and savoured what hard work, team work, and discipline can accomplish.

Alan (1o points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals) Dario (7 rebounds, 4 steals), Eduardo (2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals),Gabino (3 rebounds, 2 steals), Jesus (1 steal), Librado (2 rebounds), Oscar (18 points, 2 rebounds, 5 steals)

18 February, 2007

Waiting for the Spring

A few of the Eagles sit in the bleachers waiting for the game to start

The Wahluke Eagles are in the midst of their worse loosing streak dropping their eighth straight game to the Wapato Lil Wolves by a score of 40-35. The Lil Wolves lead the majority of the game but the Eagles took the lead in the third quarter but couldn't hold onto it.

Oscar made a valiant effort on both sides of the court scoring 2o points. Laffy Taffy came in during the third quarter and scored 8 points and providing an offensive and defensive spark. He was unable for the first half of the game due to disciplinary issues related to his behavior at practice.

The player of the game for effort was Christopher. His effort on defense kept Wahluke close. He also helped on offense with 3 points. Christopher played with a high level of intensity the majority of the game. He was taken out for few minutes during the second quarter. He played the entire second half never asking for rest and without slowing down.

Jesus continued to show promise scoring 2 points matching Gabino's offensive output. Jesus' ball control and defensive work are improving as well. Tough Little Cookie's development is one of the bright spots of this long winter.

The Wahluke coaches are frustrated by the loosing as well but they place player development and team work over victories made at the price of integrity.

14 February, 2007

Tough Choices

Exactly one week after being suspended for academic difficulty, Antonio quit the team. He brought his grades back up but still acted up at practice. Simple disciplinary infractions like a 10 second wall-sit became half hour tantrums and his frustration with his teammates lead to his lack of work in drills.

Juan, Oscar, Gabino, and I had a meeting with him after practice. We stripped him of his office of Captain and also suspended him for one game due to his poor attitude. When asked if he wanted to remain the team, he responded with a flippant "I don't know."

When I drove him home, I met with his dad and told him the news. Antonio's dad was disappointed in Tony's behavior as well. I continued onto to Jesus' house and was watching television when I checked my messages. He left one announcing his decision.

Later in the evening I dropped by as Tony was sure he was quitting. I picked up his uniform and spoke to his father who hoped that Tony would change his mind. As I left, I reminded him that he was choosing to leave us. He disagreed but his little brother reminded him that he who quit.

It is hard to loose a player of his skill level. It is hard to loose a player who was founding member of the team. It is hard to loose a player with whom Juan and I invested a great deal of time and energy. It is a tough decision but Juan and I prefer to win and loose as a team with players who want to work hard and execute the drills. It better to coach with integrity and loose than tolerate a disruptive player in exchange for victory.

13 February, 2007

Hard Work Bears Fruit

A Tough Little Cookie clashes with Laffy Taffy in a practice drill
The Wahluke Eagles had a bye weekend and are now getting ready for the last three games of the season. We face to quality opponents at home on two consecutive Saturdays. Today before we ran Juan, Bethany, and I reminded the boys that we need to come together as a team and do our best every drill and run. We need to play hard all game because we demonstrate the skills in practice and need to demonstrate them in the game. The boys are tired of loosing and so are the coaches. We know that if we played well for the whole game that we can hang in there and make our opponents beat us instead of beating ourselves.

Most of the players responded by giving a strong practice. Me Duele came back from the dead and showed the same level of skills he had last June but let go dormant in the Fall. Dario continued to respond to coaching and made rebound after rebound that gave his team second opportunities. Christopher kept up his hustle and made shots or executed passes. And Jesus kept on amazing the coaches with his desire and skills. Buttercup stole passes, knocked the ball loose, kept his possession under pressure, and made shots.

During one drill, there was a scramble for a loose ball and he took an accidental blow to the stomach that knocked the wind out of him. The coaches made sure he was okay and sent him out to get a drink. He returned ready to play. After practice Juan commented that's one tough little cookie.

08 February, 2007

A Black Day

Today the Wahluke Eagles suspended one of it's founding players due his violation of the academic code. The player in question was receiving a Failing grade in Social Studies because he did not turn in his homework.

Earlier in the day, Juan and I talked at lunch and knew that we had to suspend him. We even wrote out our points for me when I informed the player in question. It was a painful task. The player in question was one of the reasons for starting the team. Long ago when he and Oscar were in second grade, I opened my home and the Middle School gym for them to shoot. They enjoyed basketball so much and wanted to play on team. From those Friday night lights, the team began.

So when practice began, I called Oscar and him into the conference room. I took out my statement and when I announced his temporary suspension; he, Oscar, and I flinched as it was painful to speak and receive. Even now as I write this post, the sadness remains.

Fortunately the player called me later and expressed his desire to get his grades up and return. I am relieved. To loose a player with such promise and talent is tough. But worse still is to loose a friend.

04 February, 2007

Winter Continues

The beloved Wahluke Eagles continue to falter as they dropped a close game to the Grandview Hounds loosing by a razor thin margin of one hoop. Final score 23-21 as the Hounds stave off another comeback by Wahluke.
The Eagles started strong on defense and ran the court well covering both sides of the hardwood. Their defensive prowess kept them close but an uncharismatic scoring drought held the down. Shot after shot bounced off, rimmed out, or just fell short. The Eagles' forward Anthony was also unavailable the first part of the game due to stomach cramps that were tinged with dissatisfaction over not starting.

On a positive note, the rebuilding of the Eagles progresses as Dario (Big D) had his breakout game. His rebounding on both sides of the court helped give the shooters second chances and his own shooting development showed as he lead all his teammates with six points. Librado (Don Vicente) showed promise as well coming in as substitute.

The Eagles made a determined effort the last portion of the fourth quarter. Cout General Oscar (Catfish, Our Proud Cub Scout) supported by Gabino (Pickles), Tony (Fruit Cup), and Alan (Peeky Leeky) played a superb pressure defense. Anchored by Big D, they ran, shot,lunged, and stole desperately working to close the gap. However the clock showed no partiality and the Eagles ended up short.

After the game the players despondency soon faded as they withdrew to a local Burger King for the post game meal. The coaching team met and issued a statement saying in part that the while things look bleak, Spring holds promise.

Dario(6), Oscar (5) Alan (4), Gabino (4), and Eduardo (2)

01 February, 2007


Well the Wahluke Eagles are on a definite loosing streak. We opened the Fall season with two consecutive losses and then dropped four straight. Last week and again the game last Saturday make it six consecutive losses as the Eagles fell to the Toppenish Wildcats 44-31.

Juan predicted this last summer as we lost three quality players for a variety of reasons and picked up several diamonds in the rough. As we mold a new team, the string of past victories have become a sweet but distant memory.

On the bright side the Eagles acquired another fourth grade stand out. Previously we picked up Grandpa Joe but lost him to babysitting and Crispito but lost him to the fourth grade team. But last summer sacramental bonds brought us Jesus (Buttercup). Jesus' older brother Ricky is my godson. Ricky is also an exceptional student athlete who plays varsity for the High School team. Their family has been very good to me for many years so last summer I invited Jesus to practice. Little did I know how fortuitous that invitation would become.

But before I continue I must explain his name. When Jesus was in second grade he missed a lot of school because he got sick. He also complained about how tough school was for him. I told him 'toughen up Buttercup' and the name stuck. Sometimes he likes the name and other times he doesn't. I offered him Pee Wee but he declined so for now it's Buttercup.

Back to the game, Well Juan and I have become stricter on choosing our starters on the basis of their effort and attitude during practice. Using that criterion, Jesus was an easy choice. Both he, Ricky, and their brother Francisco have a reputation for being great student athletes. They try hard every practice, laugh with their teammates, and listen to instructions. So Buttercup started.

This game happened to be our Winter home opener so Jesus' dad, Ricky, and younger brother came to watch. When Ricky has time, he helps us coach. His knowledge of basketball and teamwork are helpful and the players really respect him as he plays High School ball. When he comes to games, Ricky sits on the bench and when we announced the starters he was a bit surprised to see his brother start instead of some older players.

The first half of the game we played sluggish and just couldn't get a shot off. When the second half started we did as well. Despite a valiant effort including 13 points from Tony (four field goals and one free throw) we came up short. Jesus got his first point ever with a free throw. He missed the first but on the second he did his leg kick and sunk one. Chris, Dario, and Oscar all finished with four points. Alan had three and Gabino made one.

Beyond the baskets our boys showed promise. Cristian had some good looks and Chris once again hustled on defense and offense. Librado did his best and is becoming a stronger player every week. Come Spring season, Juan and I expect him to break out.

So we have another game this Saturday against a strong team. All Juan, Bethany, and I hope for is for the boys to do their best.