Friday, 29 February 2008

Getting it in the neck

"Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals." Aristotle

Well, it shows you should be careful what you wish for... I said I wanted us to have more fun and guess what, we did. We played the Colwyn Bay Bulls, led right through the game and played some great fast paced flowing basketball along the way... until we got to the last few minutes, realised we were going to win and tried to run our offences... we lost by two baskets.

Even so it was so much fun to be playing well as a team. Even training last night was fun. It was as though it had never occurred to us we could play fast run-and-gun basketball until now and everyone was getting in on the act. I think much of the difference owed to the return from injury of point guard Sam for the game and Danny from the Raiders at training, but everyone else raised their game around them.

(If I don't mention Rob and Max's legendary blocks, I'll never hear the end of it:)

I felt bad for one of the Bulls' players. We went for the same ball early on, I'd caught him in the nose and was pretty disgusted to realise I'd ended up with a huge wet bogey on my finger! I went to take the lineout ball and surreptitiously wiped it onto the wall of the gym behind me to get rid of it... that's not the full story though...

Afterwards I saw the guy tending to himself in the mirror of the locker rooms, and discovered I had actually caught him in the neck and that thing I had wiped onto the wall of the gym was actually a lump of skin and flesh. Obviously I apologised, but I wonder if I should have told him where I had left that bit of his neck so he could have retrieved it!

One of my friends bought me a great basketball film called Crossover for Christmas. Watching it took me right back to being 11 or 12 and watching Michael Jordan videos for the first time.

It’s that childlike enthusiasm that best fuels the long hours spent in persuit of our dreams, but as we get older we look around and realise that the vast majority of us are not going to achieve what we set out to, and will have to find our own way of coming to terms with this.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men," wrote Shakespeare, "which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” (I once heard the line and it has nagged at the back of my mind ever since whenever I think about skipping a session :)

It's all about taking the opportunities put before you and we all know he’s right, though ironically it’s something we probably only realise when the key chances of our lives have almost passed.

Even so, "a life bound in shallows and in miseries" sounds a bit harsh. When I think back to running races on the track, just one person can win, but does that make meaningless the tremendous journey the other competitiors followed to reach that point? Even for the one who wins, there will always be one more thing in their career they could have achieved.

I wonder then, if it’s not always about the big picture, but actually about the moments, and that when we come to add these together, our lives will have been more meaningful than we could possibly have imagined.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The FUNdamentals of basketball

“They've just got to run up and down, open up the floor, use their athleticism and play some exciting basketball. It should be fun.” Mike D'Antoni

Writing again after a leave of absence it’s getting harder and harder to be excited about the matches and I don’t think it's just me.

I was in Chirk a few weeks back playing basketball on the outdoor court with a couple of friends and it was great fun ... roll back a week or so and we finished work, made the trek out to Llandudno, where we lost and then trekked back... it’s hard to find the joy in it.

Since I last wrote, the team has won a few, but lost a whole load more, and though we’re getting better, it’s just not happening fast enough. When you’re in a team made up of a group of old friends it’s a different feeling. The natural team spirit allows you to ride out the rough learning curve. I’m not saying our team aren’t friends, but as you see with professional football sides, if they get off to a good start the team spirit builds around that success. If they start with a string of losses however, the early shoots of that spirit get snuffed out before it has a chance to grow.

That kind of feeling lies heavily on a team and it’s a horrible suffocating feeling. Get off to an early lead in the game and the spirits rise expectantly, but hit the difficult patch in the game (and there always is one) and too easily the heads drop, as though it was only to be expected.

For me, I find the solution that works for me is to ignore the scoreboard completely (which has its down sides) but at least means you play each point for what it is, enjoy it and move. If you score or defend against them, great! If you miss or they score, it’s forgotten instantly, doesn’t matter - you’re already in the next point!

The sad part is that we’re moving in the right direction. Even the few characters I worried might pull the team apart have checked their attitude for the good of the squad and in little spells during the games you get glimpses of where the team is heading, surprising teams as we go on fast runs of points.

There’s not many games left in the season and strange as it sounds that’s almost a relief. Obviously we’re going to keep on working hard, trying to pick up game experience and wins, but if I’m honest I’m looking forward to putting this year behind us and putting in a proper off-season with the team so we can get ourselves into gear... something I just don’t think is going to happen going from game to game.

We’re all taking it seriously... but I think we need to find the fun in it again.