Did you know that Wayne Gretsky has more assists over his career than goals? How incredible is that? One of the all time great athletes has helped get the puck into another’s capable hands more than he’s made the goal himself.
Wanna know my best assist? It was to Kimberly. And it wasn’t exactly mine.
I’ve always competed in some kind of athletic event-I’m not that competitive, I just enjoy exercising.
Ok. That was a lie. I like to win. A lot.
When my oldest daughter was 5 she was on a non-competetive soccer team. When I overheard the coach tell them they were running “loser laps” at the end of practice because they were a bunch of losers that weekend I learned all I could about coaching and signed right up. My girls and their friends deserved better than loser laps. And I could check my competitiveness. For a few years anyway!
Fast forward 6 years of coaching. Watching 44 girls try out for 3 basketball teams I noticed an unusual looking girl. And here’s why. The girls were 11-12 years old and she was perhaps 75 pounds soaking wet. With super blonde hair. And the biggest, thickest coke bottle glasses you ever did see. But she was a scraper! When it was time to select our teams another coach mentioned that one of us would have to take on the blind girl.
“Well, legally blind-she can see in blurry shadows and has super hearing.”
“Super hearing. You’ll see. If you want to try and take her on.”
“I’ll take her!”
So I got Kimberly.
I told Kimberly privately that I would treat her like one of the other 9 girls and that unless she had a specific reason I didn’t feel it necessary to point out her disadvantage. The girls knew she struggled to see but it wasn’t like she was running out on the court with a seeing eye dog. She proudly lifted up her chin and said great-let’s go! I noticed that no matter where I put her on the court, Kimberly put in 100% all the time. When told to defend a girl, that poor girl on the opposing side was sadly smothered and left out of the game-no one could get her the ball because Kimberly was in the way.
She had heart.
And you just can’t teach heart.
Towards the end of the season it came to my attention that Kimberly had never scored a basket. Ever. So we devised a play-called it “Special”-and practiced it with all the girls in the special position. We overload one side of the court, one girl sets a screen and the open girl has a wide open lane to the basket. The first time we ran it-we ran it for Kimberly. Close. But not quite. Half way through the game we ran it again.
And Kimberly scored.
And the crowd applauded, her family stood up and cheered.
And her teammates went absolutely nuts.
The ref had to blow his whistle to get the game back in gear and with tears in my eyes I realized I just witnessed perhaps the coolest assist of my life.
Four other girls on the court, myself and my assistant, the 5 girls on the bench, and her family. We were her cheerleaders. We got her the ball. We saw her potential. We believed. But she did it.
And my competitive soul can’t even recall if we won the game. It will never matter-but her basket will forever count.
Often I wonder if I’ve scored more goals than I should have.
Are there times where it would have been more appropriate to give the assist?
Tis sweet to score but perhaps tis better serving to assist.