I coached middle school basketball for 7 glorious seasons. Legend has it the team I decided to coach hadn't won a game in several seasons. After becoming head coach, I learned that all but one of the 8th graders were not going to play for me. So, I had my work cut out for me. But, the group of 7th graders I had worked hard and improved. We won twice that season, and followed that with an 8-7 record. We had the odds against us. We could only practice a couple of times a week. Including 7am practice before school that was eventually banned because, well craziness sometimes goes on early mornings in the West Village.
We witnessed some of those late night (or early morning) shenanigans, as well as mice running rampant throughout the school's lobby before practice. But, it built our us vs. them mentality. We played with a chip on our shoulders, because we knew we were usually the only ones who were concerned about our team. We didn't accept moral victories. We yearned and worked for the real thing instead.
Our team became tough, fast, and skilled. We ran the press and loved to play defense. Our dribbling was mediocre, but that is often the case in middle school. By my last season, we went from about 10 players on the team to 26. (Not ideal, but I coached the hell out of them!) If you saw us play, it wasn't always pretty, but we had heart.
By the time I stepped down as head coach, we had won 58 games, including 3 double digit win seasons, 3 tournament championships. Perhaps more importantly, I had sent over a dozen of my former players to play on high school varsity basketball teams. I loved coaching that team more than just about anything else I've done professionally.But, since I coached girls
I share this story because, I saw that Diana Taurasi, one of my favorite basketball players, was taking off the next WNBA season. (Read more here.) I knew what was going to come in social media. The inevitable jokes about the WNBA. The disrespect for women in sports. You know what? I'm so tired of this. It's juvenile. Listen, one does not have to like or support professional female athletes, but insulting them is uncalled for. Because of these insults and jabs, I have the utmost respect for the inner strength and fortitude that these gifted athletes have.
If my daughter does play organized sports, I want to know that if she has a male coach that he is not just biding time until he can coach a boys team. I want to know that he believes she should have the same opportunities for growth athletically that still seem to be afforded males more than females. I want to know that he will challenge her in the same way he would challenge a boy. It is disappointing that in 2015, I still have these concerns.
I will support the WNBA because we are far from equality. I will support #LikeAGirl because it is a noble and necessary campaign. And I will support my daughter, because she should be able to play sports without ridicule and mockery.
Oh, and here's a great video about Diana Taurasi.