Okay, time for a timeout.

Instead of wine, I’m going to write a bit about how proud I am of my son Charlie.

14 years old, and over 6′ tall, he has played basketball for the last few years, taking the 5 spot, playing center.

This year, for the first time, he played on a team with a taller player. This was bound to happen at some point, but still it was surprising.

Charlie was sort of lost by the coach this year.

Today, in his first city league game, Charlie scored more points than he did all season for his high school freshman team and probably had as many minutes as well.

Charlie’s high school coach decided to play a short, fast, team. That my son Charlie is the fastest sprinter, flat out, on his team didn’t matter. On a basketball team where height is an advantage, being the shortest player, having a crappy attitude, getting technicals, committing four turnovers in the first two minutes of consecutive halves, not communicating with teammates except to berate them, playing with head down, giving up, and mentally checking out of games got you minutes on this coach’s team where parental influence seemed to be a factor in getting minutes.

My son went from being able to play well on offense to sucking as 30 seconds to a minute per game average saw his skills diminish dramatically. Still, my son was the best player on defense, owning the middle, the place where we were scored on repeatedly by bigger players – with my son out – in every game we lost.

My son watched a player he was better than, at season’s beginning, get one on one technique coaching and minutes. Charlie received no such coaching and became used to providing only scrimmage practice for the players the coach favored.  Recognizing the potential value of having the two tallest players on the floor at the same time, Charlie took it on himself to learn all plays from both his regular 5 spot, and the 4 spot. The two tallest players spent fewer than four game minutes on the floor together out of over 400 possible season minutes. Yes, this is basketball we’re talking about.

The team was divided into two teams, firsts and seconds. Firsts ran offense and seconds existed to allow the firsts to become better. Plays broken up by the seconds were stopped and rerun until the firsts could execute properly. the seconds had no such opportunity offensively in practice as the coach didn’t intend to play them in games.

That the seconds communicated better, played with greater passion, and beat the firsts when game start opportunities arose did not matter. Seconds were yanked with under two minutes of play and firsts played the rest of those games.

My son learned what not quitting is about. Basketball, something he loved, something he was very good at, became incredibly un-fun. Charlie listened to speeches that were bullshit, and came to recognize that some parents could affect game play for their children through influence. He came to hate watching his team get scored on, knowing himself capable of preventing it, but never getting the chance to play. He thought about quitting, and joining the wrestling team, but felt a commitment to his teammates. If being a scrimmage dummy made the firsts better, then he would do his best to provide the team’s players a good practice.

I am proud my son did not quit on his teammates. I wish his coach had not quit on him, or the other boys who did not receive the same coaching the firsts did. All of the boys on Charlie’s team had skills and gave to the team equally, from the tallest to the shortest, everyone contributed, no one was a star, in spite of the coach’s obvious preferences.

Today, watching my son join a team of players and instantly mesh, deflecting over a dozen shots on defense and scoring baskets on offense, playing plenty of minutes, making clear that he belongs on a court, I was very happy for Charlie.

Charlie will play at Coyote Valley at 11:30am on February 18 and March 3. Then he will take up track and field, and hopefully be called to play Summer basketball.

Next year’s coach seems immune to outside influences, and is a spectacular teacher, both of high school and basketball. I found his blog last year and was impressed by someone who had the balls to hold students, and their parents, responsible for the grades the students receive. Both Charlie and I are thrilled he made it through this year and will be able to practice with and play for a teacher who believes that students earn their grades from teachers instead of one who believes teachers give their grades to students.

Next piece, I’ll be back to wine, but I wanted to write this piece and say I am proud of the young man my son is becoming. He would rather get minutes, and is unlikely to read his dad’s words, but this is what I had.

I love you Charlie.