The roster is different. Only 4 of my original 8 players remain with the team. The roster has grown to support (3) teams now. And we no longer have our sights set on recreational league trophies. What was once a "rec" team has now blossomed into a full-on travel team. After months of practicing as much as 6 days per week (in some cases two-a-days) we found ourself entering our first AAU style tournament last week. The results on the scoreboard were not pretty. But that doesnt mean that it wasnt a successful endeavour. Nobody quit the team. Instead, the day after a tournament that required some players to play 8 games in a 48 hour span, we had players practicing at 6am in the gym doing intense plyometrics drills. As they say, "losing doesnt build character... it reveals it".
- 10U vs Inglewood Team Dream - They are the #5 ranked team in the entire country. That was a very tough draw for our first ever tournament game.
- 10U vs San Francisco Rebels - This is another top program in the country and believe it or not, we could have won this game. This was the 10U's best effort of the weekend and it shows what our potential is.
- 10U vs Garden Grove Jr Hoops - Some of our kids were on their 4th game of the day by this point and the fatigue was showing. Normally, we should beat a team like this.
- 10U vs San Diego Coastal Elite - Another team in which we should beat. But fatigue set in and we began to make uncharacteristic mistakes.
All-in-all, for this being our first tournament, I threw us in the "lion's den" to see where we are and where we want to go. Not all tournaments are as professional as this one, so on the administrative side, I wanted to make sure we had a good experience. But on the basketball side of things, this is a "A Level" tournament. It was the best-of-the-best and considering that we were missing Xavier & Tim, we did ok. Despite what the score says, in 3 out of the 4 games we played, I felt the 10U's belonged out on the court. We can play with these teams. We just need more work. Our 10U team is less than 3 months old. We were competing against teams that have been around for years.
- 12U vs Anaheim Regulators - This is proof that we should never judge a team by its size. They were small but fast and aggressive. It caught us off guard but that is only natural considering the 12U's were new to tournament play as well.
- 12U vs San Francisco Rebels - They are a top team in the nation and we just arent ready for them yet. But we will be one day.
- 12U vs Pasadena Fury - Finally during this game, the 12's snapped out of it and started playing ball. Unfortunately we had already spotted the other team a bunch of points by that time. But the key was that we finally started fighting back.
- 12U vs Los Angeles Elite - We spotted them 12 points and scored one basket in our own hoop. But then we stormed back and nearly won it at the end. Better play at the start and we dominate this team. Better coaching at the end and we take it to overtime and take our chances there.
I am very proud of all the kids this weekend, but Im most proud of the 12's. They showed tremendous growth over the weekend. I know I push them hard at times. I can get loud and animated, but I hope they know I love 'em to death... this is competitive sports. And despite all the yelling, I had a lot of fun coaching our kids. We've all come a long way in a VERY short period of time.
I know what our potential is and I wont stop trying until we reach it.
What We Learned
It's one thing to take the kids to the movies and get burgers to build team unity, but nothing galvanises and strengthens a unit like losing together. It's a odd phenomenon. But the players that can stick through these rough weekends together and come back fighting will be better for it. It takes "learning how to lose" before you can "learn how to win".
The bottom line, is that there were only 2 games out of the 8 that I felt we didn't belong on the court. The other 6 teams were all beatable.
We need more experience at this level. I need to recruit some more players so that I have more substitutions to battle fatigue (especially in the 10U). We need to work on our individual skills (dribbling & passing) as well as get into better conditioning. All of this will come with time.
Lucky will be joining the 10U team shortly. He is tall and willing to work hard. I also have 2 other players that will be joining us soon as well. One is a great athlete and the other is a very hard worker. Both are raw but with coaching, they will be key additions to the team.
I have 2 tall players that I have been heavily recruiting to join our 12U squad. These additions will make a huge difference. Losing Ali to a knee injury today limited his playing time and didnt give me a lot of flexibility with substitutions with our forwards. I'm also hoping to add a couple kids named Hunter & Kyle. Im not going to say anything more other than that they "bring it".
I know that the games were not close by the score in most cases. And I could see that the kids were bummed out at losing so much. 8 losses in 3 days is not easy on anyone. Especially considering we won that many games in a row in the previous month. But this is the big boy leagues. This is where we are going as a program. And with enough practice and effort, it will be where we belong.
We are a much stronger team right now than when we started on Friday. Remember, just 6 short months ago we only won 2 of our 8 games in the Boys & Girls Club League. Now we destroy those teams. Right now we are 0-8 in tournament play. Imagine where we will be in 6 months? You have to believe to achieve. Please tell all the kids to keep believing in themselves because lord knows, I havent given up on any of them.
And lastly, the kids werent the only ones that learned and grew from this experience. This was my first tournament of this nature since I was their age and my first tournament as a coach. There are quite a few things I will be doing differently as we prepare for the next one and coach in it as well.
Now considering that was a "A Level" tournament and it was the End-of-the-Season event. That was about as hard a tournament as we could have entered during the 2013 season. Every team in there has been preparing all year for that.
The new season starts in September. Our next tournament will be played in either August or September and I will be entering us in a lower level tournament with other club teams as new as ours. We will begin the process of building our confidence up and gaining further experience against good competition as we gear up for the 2014 Anaheim event. Starting this Fall, we will no longer be playing in the Boys & Girls Club League. We are a real "club team" now. Which means it will be all tournaments, all the time.
Here is a list of links to future tournaments in the area:
Ive been told that SWOOSH does a good job of getting together lower level club teams so I think that their late August tournament is what I'll be shooting for (August 24th-25th).
I am very close to locking down a sponsor for our team that should cover our tournament costs. Almost all of the top programs either have a big-time sponsor or some rich parents forking out $400-600 per kid a month to compete at this level.
I know I dont have any parents within our program with that sort of dough. But I do have kids that are willing to put in the sort of effort worthy of a big-time program. So in order to be a team that enters at least one tournament per month, I have to get some assistance for our program to cover entries, food, hotel, shoes, etc.
I will keep everyone posted as this situation materializes.