A familiar sight for me this season (DeMatha fans boo Gonzaga, via WashingtonPost.com)

Flashback: I’m driving southbound down the I-15 corridor headed towards Provo. I forget now why I was driving towards Provo because I rarely head down that way unless I’m on my way to St. George, Moab, one of the many beautiful national parks in Southern Utah or just leaving the State altogether. I generally have a million things going through my head at any given time so when my phone rang I thought to myself, ‘Thought number one-million-and-one entering the no-parking-zone in my brain in 3..2..1..’

“Hello may I speak to Mr. Matua?” the sweet female voice on the other end of the line was saying as I began to make up an excuse for why I still haven’t made my car payment this month.

“Oh uh…may I ask who is calling?”

“This is [Name withheld to protect the innocent] from the Lehi Legacy Center. I’m calling to ask if you would be interested in coaching the 9th – 10th grade team your son will be playing on.”

Gasp! Should I tell her that I’m going to be traveling to Tibet to live in a monastery for three months? Maybe I should tell her I’m anti-social (not far from the truth) and my psychiatrist has asked me to lay low and take my medication religiously for the next three months? Or maybe I should just tell her the truth – I’m horribly incompetent, I’m too critical and I don’t have the patience to coach a recreation basketball team. I’m too competitive and you really don’t want kids around me when I’m losing because to be frank, I absolutely hate losing – just ask Super Mom and my sons how I take a loss in a board game of your choice.

Unfortunately, the wires were crossed in my head as the one-millionth-and-one piece of information was given to me by the Lehi Legacy Center employee on the phone and before I could swallow my tongue and bite my lips shut my mouth said:

“Why sure! I’d love to do that. Where do I sign up?”

Lehi Legacy Employee of the Year was rambling on in my ear just as thought number one-million-and-two interjected – ‘You’re an idiot!’

I consider myself a pretty good motivator. I actually love teaching kids how to play various sports, particularly sports that I have participated in throughout my lifetime. I find joy in watching a young person develop under my tutelage. I’m tooting my own horn a bit but I think I’m a decent coach. Not stellar by any means and definitely not the best, but I take pride in watching young people transform their skills from one level to the next level while enjoying the sport.

But I also LOVE winning. Many coaches will tell you that they are in it to ‘teach and mentor’ kids and those are the coaches who make better citizens. But to most parents of those players under your charge, success generally means – my kid is scoring points; my kid is contributing to the success of the team and my kid is winning. If you’re not winning, it’s hard to convince anyone, including the kids, that all this running around, diving for loose balls, grabbing rebounds and taking a beating and losing in the process is fun. I can’t say that I disagree with a 0-and-7 record this season.

Today is the last game of what has been a very challenging basketball season. Let me reiterate that I absolutely hate losing. It’s very difficult to be positive about a losing season and I shoulder all of the blame for not preparing my team better for every game. There were many games that we should have won except for a few mistakes that cost us dearly when we needed to close out games.

But there have also been some positives – particularly in the boys who started the season too timid, with very little athletic aggression and a mildly complacent attitude in trying situations. I’ve seen the team chemistry improve and the skill level has improved as well. I’m most proud of the fact that those who have stuck with the team are actually enjoying themselves on the court.

Unfortunately, two kids decided to quit the team. One of them quit because he felt like basketball wasn’t his ‘thing’. The other kid quit because he wanted to concentrate on baseball. Honestly, I think they quit because they either feel like I had failed them as a coach or because they were tired of playing for a team that seemed like they were okay with losing. Whatever the reason, I know that the former is true – I completely failed them as a coach. That’s hard to swallow because one of the primary principles of coaching is making sure that your players enjoy the experience enough to want to come back despite the hardships.

Where to from here? We close out the season playing as hard as we possibly can, chalk it up for what it is and hope that the next time they end up on a recreation league roster for the Lehi Legacy Center, that they don’t see their names next to Coach Matua on the list. Personally, I need to re-evaluate my coaching style, my philosophy and perhaps say ‘No’ the next time I’m asked to coach a rec-league basketball team. I would love the chance to try again, but only time will tell.

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