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In November I signed on to help with our varsity basketball program. I still chuckle about the notion as do many others who know me. This season for the boys has admittedly been bumpy. We are a relatively young team with only two returning varsity players after a large group graduated. Last night was our last game.

I learned a lot this season, a little about basketball and a lot about life.

First I want to say to both our teams, the Zeniths and Pandas, I am proud of you and you bring honour to our school and community. Anyone that says otherwise based on a win-loss record or a few lost moments is not focused on what matters.

As coaches and adults involved in the lives of student athletes our duty is to build up not cut down, criticism must be constructive not destructive. What are we helping by reminding students of the moments things did not go right and placing blame on them? How can we ask students to keep their head up and keep going as we pile the weight of their mistakes on their shoulders and don't let them forget?

Coaching and teaching have so many parallels. The other day I was going over some writing with a student and there were a lot of errors, a lot of areas that they could improve. Telling them all of them, piling them on would only weigh down the student and make the task seem impossible. So we look at the positives and then constructively add support to the weak areas. As a teacher I want to see my students succeed but not to the detriment of their self worth.

I have had a few examples of great coaches in my life. My father obviously to me is the ideal to try and attain. He taught me that sportsmanship was just as, if not more, important than winning. That players should be taught to help build teammates up, to support and not tear down and coaches should be the same. He also taught me that we can hold players to a high standard and help them get there when they stumble. The other example I now have is Ryan Blackmore who invited me to join him on this adventure this year. I still struggle to adjust to the rougher coaching style of Southern Alberta sports and sports culture. I am not really a fan of the "this is how it has always been" thinking that supports abusive fans, un-sportsman like behaviour and other things I see as issues and when Ryan asked me to join him he said things would be different and they were. He was a great example to the boys of passion and dedication with the occasional language violation that I came to appreciate and laugh about. What was most apparent was his dedication, respect and deep sense of caring for the players on the court, he took the time to build, we improved as a team and as people as the season went on and I am grateful for the time I had to learn from him.

Finally I just want to put in to words my gratitude for the kids. I am not a big speech person, i like to think and ponder and then write. To the student athletes I got to work with and support this year both the boys and girls. Thank you.

Thank you for holding your heads up when things got tough.

Thank you for being an example to the younger kids who come out to cheer you on with their homemade signs and funny costumes.

Thank you for the opportunity to get to know you all in a different role than a teacher in a classroom.

Thank you for laughing with me on the bench as I try and learn a game that is far more complicated than I ever knew.

Thank you for including me in this journey.

Your community is prouder of you then you will ever know and don't let anyone tell you differently. If you really need proof look at the eight year olds who are following in your footsteps, the kids lining up at the end of a hard fought game just to show you the sign they made. The kids who proudly say they want to be a future Zenith or Panda. Look to the sweet old lady that travels in from out of town to zones just to cheer on "her teams".

Losses are tough but those moments do not define you and they certainly do not diminish the honour you have brought to our community. You are teenagers and the weight of a town should not be on your shoulders.

Thank you for the season, for the great moments and the tough ones, they are what shape us.

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