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.

18 November, 2007

A few thoughts

Right- Three players watching a movie
Coaching the Eagles isn't a sure fire to make money. In fact it costs quite a bit and offers few financial benefits save a free meal and Burger King for two coaches, the third has to pay. If one looks beyond the material , then coaching is the best thing I do.

Bethany, Juan, and I get the chance to spend time with some fantastic young men who face challenges, dream big, and live in a world that doesn't appreciate their presence in our country. Most of our boys have papers, some of their parents don't, and each day that elephant in room stands there forgotten is the midst of the daily grind but never ignored. One newspaper article or rumour is all that's needed to cause tension and fear. The boys go to school and the parents work and through it all the elephant remains silent but real.

Coaching allows Bethany, Juan, and I the opportunity to get the know the boys outside of school. We see them at practices, drive them to games, share meals after games, and also interact with them in social settings. We've had team functions at the school, in Juan's house, and mine. And in those informal settings we see some special things.

The players demonstrate the care for one another by their generosity. If any player is short at Burger King, he rarely asks the coaches as his teammates supply what he needs. And if one player buys a desert, often times he shares it with one or two friends. After games, we'll stop to buy gas and sometimes the boys buys chips or snacks for the ride home. If a player doesn't have any money, he need not worry everyone in car shares what they have.

And being boys they express themselves by joking around. At times Jesus takes a bit of verbal jesting, just ask him about Mr. Jiggles and Squinty the Pirate. Before that it was Cristian and his soft spoken voice. Other times it's Alan and his alleged playing with his sister's toys.

Being boys too they show their colours by hitting each other, a lot. There is no bullying or singling anyone out, the coaches keep a close eye on that. It is just boys being boys by trying out the moves they see on WWE and doing tag team matches on the carpet. Or when the weather permits by playing tackle football and watching Jesus spring at Alan's neck like a terrier on speed. Everyone laughs and when one players wants to quit his friends respect his neutrality until he looses his noncombatant status by launching a surprise attack.

We enjoy our players' company. We share their dreams of making it big and support them all we can. And it pays rich dividends when you see them grow by sharing what they have, watching them support each other at school, see them take responsibility for their studies, and through it all watch the boy learning how to be a man.


17 November, 2007

Librado's Turn

Two Eagles watch the previous game
The Wahluke Eagles (1-1) faced off against the Toppenish Wildcats (1-2) Saturday in a divisional battle. The Eagles started strong and by the end of the first qiuarter it was 14-2 but Toppenish wasn't rolling over. However the Eagles were playing better defensive basketball and this helped their cause.

Last Tuesday marked the debut of Collin's dad Jeff as a guest coach. Jeff coached High School and college ball and knows more than Bethany, Juan, or I. We welcomed his assistance. His first order was to remind the boys to keep their hands up on defense. For two practices, we worked on this skill and on improving our boxing out. Both helped us win.

The increased wing span increased our rebounds as did the boxing out. Our improved defense lead to some fouls by Toppenish and before the first half ended, we were shooting 1 and 1. At the end of the half we had the lead but Toppenish wasn't done.

At one point in the third quarter, we had a ten point lead and looked in control. A few bad shots, turn-overs, and miscues from the bench combined with a Wildcat hot streak lead to them closing the gap. The game got physical as well as both teams were shooting 1 and 1. The fouls weren't harsh or intentional, just two teams fighting for the ball. Then things turned south for Toppenish.

One of their players was blown for a technical foul, which gave us two points and the ball, plus he was removed from the game. As the fourth quarter went on, Toppenish and Wahluke kept playing, we held the lead and they kept pursuing it. Late in the fourth two more Toppenish players fouled out. Still they pulled within three.

Holding onto a five point lead, Tony was fouled when Toppenish did a reach. He walked to the line and missed his first, but thankfully made the second. Toppenish called time-out, got the ball and made a three pointer and we got the ball. Librado was fouled and made one of his two shots. We went back to defense and the game came to a close Wahluke 46-Toppenish 42.

It was team win. Every player did his part. However it was Librado's break-out game. He played the majority of the time as a starter, a substitute, and then the majority of the fourth quarter as well. He is learning how to handle the ball, the pressure, and see the open man. But Librado always has smile on his face, comes to practice ready to work, and is always in a good mood. I think one day he has a future as a game show host or a weatherman for local tv.

Collin did his part as well. Using all his fourth grade frame, he kept his hands up on defense and ran the court. When the game started, he hustle lack a little luster but improved after half-time. Jose too did his part. He made two points and had a couple shots that didn't fall his way.

The Eagles did their job and again it was a team win.

Oscar (21 points), Dario (7 points), Librado (1 point), Alan (8 points), Tony (7 points), and Jose (2 points)


03 November, 2007


The fates seemed against us in the moments before the opening tip. Simple things augured a tough game that Mr. Martinez predicted, "wouldn't be pretty." Several of our veteran players were unable to start due to sickness (he slept in tent last night with cousin in the freezing cold) and due to discipline issues from practice. Even our newest player Colin, who was slated to start, had yet to arrive. Lastly this writer forgot his camera. So the Wahluke Eagles faced off against the Grandview Dawgs with odds stacked against them.

Before the recap, a little history is required. Past readers may recall that previously, the Eagles played poorly in the first quarter, sometimes the first half, and a few times even through the third. So the coaches began last summer to work and change our team's culture. We emphasized effort and doing our best the whole game. Most importantly we stressed the need to play hard and walk off the court a winner, no matter what the score.

The Red Sox (Tony's favorite team) gave some much needed assistance in this regard. Manny Ramirez, their laid back right fielder, gave several interviews during the World Series about this year and in 2004 and how the Red Sox managed to stay calm, have fun, and just play hard and leave the field knowing they did all that they could. That became our goal.

So when the game began, we braced ourselves for a valiant effort and hoped that boys didn't loose heart. Grandview wasted no time staking themselves to an early lead. They found the hoop while at the same time stealing the ball at half court and preventing us from taking a shot. Our starters worked hard and stopped them once or twice. Little did we know how important those seemingly insignificant plays would become. At the end of the first period we had scored two points and trailed by quite a few.

The second quarter began with Tony and Eduardo playing up top. Later Christopher did some work there as well. And suddenly it became difficult for the Dawgs to drive the ball in so they worked the sides instead. They managed to score some but we mounted a bit of a comeback and had pulled within nine with the score Wahluke 11 and G-Town 20. Then Grandview unleashed an offensive torrent and the half ended 11-29.

However a few plays played a big part. Jose E. pulled down a few rebounds and got the ball off to his teammates. His speed played a part as he was able to race down court and as well and prevent the easy hoop. Little Collin did his part too by summoning all his might, he leaped up high and managed to spike away the ball from a much larger opponent. It ought to be noted that Collin is a fourth grader playing on a sixth grade team.

When the third quarter began, things fell into place. Every player executed his duties. Whether it was Oscar, Alan, Tony, Christopher, Cristian, Dario, or Eduardo when they were on the court they played hard. All the hard work and conditioning from the summer paid off as the boys fought every possession. Boxing out became common place and outside shooters established themselves which opened up the inside lanes. When the period ended, G-Town had scored 4 points in the last 28 seconds but were held scoreless for six minutes and thirty two seconds. We scored 9 so the score was 20-32.

The fourth quarter began and we were on a roll. Our players were hungry and knew that if that all their coaches wanted was for them to do their best. Each time-out we reminded them to leave it on all the court. We told them how proud we were of their effort and teamwork and how we counted this game a win no matter what the score. Two incidents give witness to these observations. First, each time-out, our players huddled up and listened to the coaches. At first, the G-Town players looked away and only in the third and fourth quarter did they come in close. Second, in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter when were losing, our players came out of a time-out with a smile on their faces.

The actual events occurred so quickly that its hard to remember them all. One play though stands out as the new touchstone of the Wahluke Eagles. Before it was Freddy and Oscar against the Mabton Vikings making the winning shot but this time it was the team. G-Town was in-bounding the ball. Alan and Oscar were moving with purpose covering their man. As the ball was in flight, Dario got a finger on it tipping it away from the intended receiver. Eduardo sprinted toward the ball and got possession. Tony, realizing the possibilities sprinted toward the hoop. Eduardo does a perfect bounce pass, Tony collects the ball and lays it, and for the first time, Wahluke had the lead 43-42.

G-Town inbounded the ball and drove down court. All the boys covered their opponents well and prevented the easy drive up the middle or on the sides. The Dawgs passed it in and one of our player fouled him. The Grandview player had two shots and missed them both. Just as the last shot bounced off the rim, Dario seized it. Later he told a teammate that he grabbed just like it was his hamburger. He passed the ball to Oscar who passed it to Tony who held onto it even when he was charged hard by an opponent. The ref blew the whistle and the buzzer sounded. Wahluke wins by one.

After the game there were tears in some players and coaches eyes. Oscar and Tony embraced and I embraced them both. Tony commented that we finally won a close game. We all knew what he meant. In this same gym and against this same team we lost by two points and we dropped several other close ones as well.

So the Eagles opened division play with a win. Click on the title of the post in order to see the league standings and see our schedule as well. More important than the win though is how we did it. Every player doing their best and the coaches supporting their efforts knowing how important it is to be loose, play our game, and leave it all on the court.
Dario (2 points), Libardo (1 steal), Alan (4 points, 1 steal), Tony (2 points, 2 steals), Oscar (26 points, 1 steal), Eduardo (9 points, 1 steal)