I’ve discussed my kiddos this year– my nine 13/14 year-old girls that I coach in basketball. I’ve talked about my difficulty in reaching them (see here), and how they differed from my team last year (see here). After that miserable practice two weeks ago where they asked if they could forfeit their remaining two games of the season, they stepped up and won out the rest of their games. By doing so, they made the playoffs!! We finished out the season 3-6 and entered last night’s game against the #1 seeded team (with a record of 9-0) in a three-way-tie for fourth place. The team we played had a considerable height advantage over us, got to play in their home gym, and had the luxury of knowing they’d handily defeated us earlier in the season. I knew if my girls played the aggressive defense they’d been playing in the last few games, that we would give this team a run for their money. My girls stepped up. Right out of the gate, they pounced on the other team, and even though the other team was better ball players we ended the first quarter with a score of 2-2. We slipped a little in the second quarter, but only let them take the lead by a score of 12-3 going into half time. We were still in a great position both offensively and defensively to make a final stand in the second half. Unfortunately for us, we stalled for a few minutes at the beginning of the third quarter, and they stretched their lead to 16-5. Despite my best efforts, I watched as their two quick baskets deflated my team. My girls weren’t ready to throw in the towel, but as a coach and former player I could tell that that was where we lost the game. They lacked the mental toughness to handle the baskets, and lacked the basketball prowess to now come back from an 11 point deficit. But they tried. They hustled, they were aggressive, and they gave me all that they had in the last 15 minutes trying desperately to get back into the game. In a 40 minute game, they played excellent for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately the game was decided during the other 10 minutes. The final score was a very respectable 23-16. My season was over. The basketball careers of most of my girls are also over. I couldn’t have asked any more of them, they did give it their best shot. I am so very proud of those girls for the effort they gave me, the composure they showed, and that they left it all out on the court for the basketball gods to decide. They have nothing to regret, and nothing to be disappointed over. Next season I start over, with a younger and completely new set of girls. But what I learned from my girls this season will stay with me, and only make me better. I wish them the very best and hope our paths cross again one day.