Basketball and the Night Watch.
“I am the shield that guards the realms of men.”
Night’s Watch Vow- The Game of Thrones
One time, many years ago, we were warming up prior to a state play-off game. I wanted some to time to think, so I went up the stairs towards the next level of the gym. There was a landing half way up where I stop and tried to gather my thoughts.
I noticed the graffiti on the wall before me and focused in on what was written there. “ Johnny sucks donkey d—ks!” was written with a red marker. Then, “ Want to get laid? Call Lisa M,” this was followed by Lisa M’s supposed telephone number. I glanced around and read other writing that was equally profane and unnecessary. I went back to thinking about the upcoming game and filed the incident away.
Weeks later, I recounted the memory during our end of the year banquet. I had been contemplating the moment and what it meant. I had also been thinking about retiring. I was suffering from sleep apnea and was always very tired. By the end of the season, I was drained. In addition, my wife was starting to question how much of my time and energy I had been giving to coaching basketball.
That night sitting the stairwell kept me from retiring by reminding me of how important the job was. Life, often, is a big confusing mess. This is true for adults as much as for the young. But it is especially true for anyone trying to find his or her true path toward the future. By true path I mean the path that will lead to happiness, success, and wellbeing.
In my mind, the graffiti I saw on the wall that night conjured up the very thin line that exists between order and chaos, good and evil, right and wrong, success and failure, well being and psychic entropy. It represents the border that lies between being who you are supposed to be and instead becoming the result of a series of bad decisions. It mainly reminded me of the duty teachers, coaches, and anyone else who works at guiding the young has in protecting that border.
Life is confusing enough and nowadays the temptation to fail is expanding at an very alarming rate. It has become even more important that coaches are there when our players and students descend into the dark forest of young adulthood to offer them hope, support, and skills so that they might safely make their way through to the other side.
In this sense, our cause is a holy and honorable quest that is so often undervalued, and many of us will toil and sacrifice in total anonymity. I think that being a good coach is often like being a member of the Night’s Watch on the television series The Game of Thrones. Good coaches don’t seek personal glory but respond to a sense of duty.
Coaching done right is a sacred duty. There are really not any written rules, if you do it right, you will know it. If you are doing wrong, you will know it as well. Those who only coach for individual vanity, victories, and championships, and those who judge people solely on their ability to put the ball in the basket, who steal players out from under other coaches and are able to justify anything in name of winning, well, you are working for the team north of the wall.