We’ve had nearly everything so far this year canceling practices aside from rain. We’ve had holidays, municipal elections, missing buses, unavailable coaches.
I’ve been looking forward to the back-to-back practices for the two teams in Tamra ever since it became clear that I would be going there on a regular basis this year. Nothing against any of the other communities we work with, of course.
In the excitement I made sure I had plenty of time to get to Tamra. I over estimated a bit – I arrived a the field a full 40 minutes before practice. At least I wasn’t late… I got some all important time on a game app I had coincidentally downloaded earlier in the day.
Once the players started showing up, I put the phone away. Might as well be a little social. Tossing in the parking lot with two players it was me who let an easy catch bounce off his hand, over a fence, to land just out of reach on the edge of a multi-story drop. Not the best omen, if you take stock in things like that.
The clock ticked over, a bus load of players arrived, and the gate was unlocked. We streamed onto the field and I started to realize the enormity of what I was about to face. There were so many of them. I checked in with the three CIT’s that were there, one from each year. What I suspected was confirmed – we had players who had been at camp and some for whom this was their first practice. So I made the quick adjustment to split the group into two. I gave two of the CIT’s some instructions for the players who had been at camp, and went over my ideas with the third CIT who I wanted to keep with me with the newer group.
After a couple minutes introduction – Water, hats, etc etc etc – We split the groups and got to work. Immediately it was clear that the group was still too large to manage, so we split the group again, and I found myself with a group of girls who were new to the game teaching catching and backhand.
After a few minutes, one of the CIT’s working with the 2nd year players came over and asked for help figuring out what to do next. I swapped her into the drill I was running and hopped over to the other side of the filed. I started to set up a go-to drill, but ended up setting up two copies of the drill side by side. I explained the drill and ran through it a couple times in front of everyone and then made sure each of the two copies were working well.
At this point I started counting. I mean, maybe I should know how many players we had out here? 1,2,3… 26. I popped back over to the newer players – 1,2,3…24. So 50. I think we’ve had UP events with a full staff with than many players…
I knew it was a large group, but I hadn’t really expected that. By this point a fourth CIT had arrived and I started hopping from group to group. The next part of practice was hectic and it’s hard for me to remember details. I was moving around, giving pointers to CIT’s, encouraging players, and taking turns in drills. I got skied by a 10 year old in a dog drill, was part of a huddle entirely in Arabic (I just smiled and nodded as the CIT spoke), and divided up teams for a scrimmage.
Once the scrimmage started things began to settle a little. I let them go through a couple points to settle down and then brought over the new group so I could show them the game and talk about the rules. I ended the practice by bringing everyone together and talking about how well practice went, UP’s five values, and how excited I am to be working with them. With that I sent them off to the bus.
As the players headed off the field, I gathered the CITs and thanked them. They really stepped up, not only following my direction but also improvising and setting up their own drills. I couldn’t have survived that hour and a half without them. (was it really only 90 minutes? Seems hard to believe)
A short bathroom break later and it started all over again, only in miniature. Not really miniature, the big kids took the field, but many fewer of them, only 14. The sun had set and the lights were on. Warm-up, focused partner throwing, button hook drill, and then scrimmage. One of the guys had to leave for soccer practice a little early, so I was drafted to fill out the teams. Oh, well, I guess I’ll go in if I HAVE to.
I’m not sure if my four hours in Tamra today could have gone much better. My fear is that it’s all down hill from here. My hope is that the CITs continue to step up and exceed expectations. The reality will probably be somewhere in the middle.
It’s hours later now, and I should be asleep. But somehow I’m still filled with adrenaline. My loss of sleep is your gain if you made it all the way through my opus.
Thank you Ultimate Peace (and everyone who has ever helped over the years) for giving me the opportunity to work with all these amazing young people!