Our first System season we were 8-8 at the Christmas break when I noticed something unusual about the team. They were playing differently. I couldn't put my finger on it, but commented about the change to my assistants on the way home from a road loss. We finally agreed that it boiled down to one thing: flow. The movements that had seemed herky-jerky all season had begun to smooth out. Players who had turned down open threes were shooting without hesitation. And defenders were anticipating and rotating in our press as if they suddenly just understood.
We are currently 9-8 at NCC. The short Division III season is well past the half-way point, but I'm now certain that with 16 games under our belt something clicked last week. And that "clicking" sound was the light bulb switching on.
It feels really good to see our progress. Last Saturday at North Park we played with confident abandon. Today in practice we ran our 3 on 2 drill, one of my favorites for developing simple drive-kick-and-shoot instincts, and we were knocking down three after three off the catch, almost machine-line. Automatic. The tempo is hard-wired into their nervous systems, and the switch is on.
Now, I'll have to admit that in our first week of practice I wondered if we'd ever get it. Starting from scratch was harder than I expected, because at ONU I was used to some experience on the part of our System veterans who helped blaze the trail and model for the younger players how things work. It's been worth the wait. Maybe we'll win a few more games this year, who knows... it's a very tough league. But win or lose, we have earned our stripes.
So on Tuesday afternoon, after practice, I'm going to present each player with the coveted "Light Bulb Award," a sort of tongue-in-cheek certificate we used to give to each freshman at ONU when they finally "got it." Every player at North Central is in effect a System freshmen, and it's time that we recognize what remarkable progress they've made.
The Award, signed by the entire coaching staff, has the school name and a clip-art picture of a glowing light bulb, with an inscription that reads:
Light Bulb Award
This is to certify that
This is to certify that
Has survived her Indoctrination into Run and Gun Basketball
and is hereby recognized as a fully qualified
with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.