Put me in coach, I’m ready to play…
Dr. Bill Summerhill, Head of School
To paraphrase an old Yogi-ism from baseball, “you can hear a lot by listening.” One of the places I hear some of the most important messages is at the scorer’s table during basketball games. Trying to manage the clock I can’t help but overhear what is being said by those who play, coach, and officiate this incredible game.
For the past two years I’ve paid particular attention to what our boys varsity coach, Austin Johnson, says to his players in an almost non-stop litany of directions, supplications, questions and encouragements. He first caught my ear several years ago when he brought his Wildorado teams into our gym, and now that he is directing our program, his words are instructive to me in explaining why he has a knack for producing players and teams who keep getting better and better.
High school boys’ basketball is fast, and at times it is furious. The tempo of the running, the up and down, frenetic pace of the action leaves me breathless. Such a high-Adrenalin game requires a skill set that takes years of practice and training to master. That is why our program is now a year-round exercise in conditioning and repetitious drilling so that the sum total of the required talents—running, dribbling, jumping, shooting, rebounding, passing, and proper spacing and positioning on the floor can become second nature. In short, it takes a lot of preparation to become good at a sport that demands so much of those who want to play it at a high level.
During many games Coach Austin will shout to his players to “get ready.” And when he senses they are not mentally or physically focused on the floor, he will let them know he doesn’t think they are ready, followed by a predictable summons to come to the bench so they can get their heads in the game before he sends them back in.
This year our varsity boys’ team battled through a long and tough season before qualifying to play in Tuesday’s TAPPS Area playoff game. It is the first time since 2014 that we’ve earned this right. Along the way we’ve won and lost some heartbreakers, and we’ve suffered through the loss of key players to injury. But we’ve competed and advanced, in spite of the adversities and setbacks, because we keep pushing ourselves to be ready to play the next possession, the next quarter, or the next game. That is what has got us here, and that is what will take us however far we may proceed into the playoffs.
Coach Johnson’s attention to detail and obsession with being ready reinforces everything we stand for at Ascension. Being ready in life, whether it is for basketball, college academics, or artistic performances depends on whether we can summon the concentration, the “in the moment” attention to being ready when we are called to perform. Readiness is more than just showing up. Readiness is beyond the reach of those who are preoccupied by life’s other distractions. Readiness is both a state of mind and a personal commitment of will that we apply to everything we do.
What I’ve seen from good coaches like ours I’ve repeatedly heard from the very good music and theater directors with whom I’ve been blessed to work over my career. Practice, training, rehearsal are what distinguish winning teams and stellar performances from those that fall short of victory or excellence. For it is only in committing ourselves to getting ready, and summoning our full attention when we are in the spotlight that we can say with confidence and realism: put me in coach, I’m ready to play.
Thank you, parents, for supporting our efforts to prepare each new flight of Cardinals to become men and women who are ready to play in the biggest game of all: life.