“Tigers On 3!!!”

Nobel Isaiah Breed, Guest Contributor

After Spring Break, Ms. Smith presented Junior class officers and basketball players with the unique opportunity to coach 2nd thru 5th graders at M.I. Logan Elementary School in wake of their upcoming community tournament. Excited by the idea of coaching Alfredo Hildago, Ronney Johnson, Anthony Bennet, Troyce Clater, George Breed, Devin Stevenson, and I jumped at the opportunity. For the entire month of April and the first week of May, we traveled from YMLA to M.I. Logan every Thursday and Friday to have practice with the kids from 4 to 5:10 pm. For the first few practices, all the coaches traded places between the two teams to get to know all of the kids in the program before assigning coaches to teams. I found my home as head coach of the second and third graders along with Alfredo and Troyce, while George, Ronney, and Anthony went with the fourth and fifth graders.

Genesis drinking water

With our prior basketball knowledge, we devised drills to enhance the children’s handles, shooting, defense, passing, and comradely to prepare them for their games. We started with the basics because some of the kids didn’t even know what a pass or lay-up was, and others were scared of the ball like my girl Genesis who used to run away anytime someone threw the ball in her direction. We started with drills like two-line passes, lay-up lines, defensive slides, and some cone drills for dribbling. The fourth and fifth graders progressed along smoothly listening to and enjoying their coaches with little defiance developing a strong bond with one another and a love for the game. They even got to a point of willingly accepting the punishment of running or push-ups for missing a lay-up or consecutively messing up a drill, a quality Coach Lee and Coach Conley seemingly have to beg JV and Varsity for. The second and third graders also developed these qualities, just not as easily. It took longer for us to get the basics down because, as 8 and 9-year-olds do, they just wanted to play instead of focusing on the minuscule less fun aspects of basketball, but we eventually got it down while having fun in the process.

As their skills improved we then moved on to competitive play. This progression in practice was very much welcomed by all the kids and the coaches because a lot of smack talk had taken place between the two groups over who could or couldn’t guard who. The opportunity to prove their point was especially taken up by the fourth and fifth graders and their coaches, as after finishing their skill work, they would do 3-on-3 games between the coaches and the players where the loser had to run a down and back. Although the kids lost nearly every time with one exception, the constant obstacle of overcoming larger, stronger, and more skilled opponents within their coaches helped build camaraderie among the players. It helped them translate what they practiced into a real game. Through this 3-on-3 play, the coaches were able to properly gauge the strengths and weaknesses of each player while constantly asserting playful dominance. My coaching staff and I took a different approach with the second and third graders since they had no chance against us just based on size alone, not even taking into account the difference in skill. Occasionally I’d let all of my players chase me around in an attempt to steal the ball as I dribbled circles around them, but that’d always end badly for me as I would end up sweaty, tired, and being jumped by fourteen tiny humans. Nonetheless, to feed into their competitive nature, we’d do 1-on-1 games and work our way to 5-on-5 games to imbed the idea of scoring in their minds, which they struggled with, and put them in game-like scenarios.

It wasn’t all flowers and rainbows though there were some rough moments in this experience; one of my players even had to exit the program because of an altercation with another player. Yea, that happened, and I wish it didn’t because I know firsthand how much being involved in a sport like Basketball can help someone improve how they deal with themselves and others, like how that kid needed. Nonetheless, some concepts that I, as a coach, struggled with getting my kids to understand were NOT fouling, making shots, and following instructions. Early on, we told the kids to always go after the ball on defense, and it worked; until it didn’t. Due to the children’s overly competitive natures, they ended up trying to get the ball by any means necessary, even if it meant grabbing or swatting at the person with the ball, creating some problems that needed to be fixed. As if the fouling wasn’t bad enough, on offense, we couldn’t make a shot to save our lives. Shot tendencies ranged from Benni, who’d put too much power into the shot, to Valorie, who couldn’t get the ball past the net, and even Diego, who always shot left no matter where he was. Last but definitely not least, we were terrible at following instructions, especially when I was the only coach there due to conflicting schedules. In some practices, I would spend more time trying to corral all the kids that were either running around chasing each other, sitting on the wall just chilling, or stopping Anna, Nana, and Kanesia from taking pictures and watching Tiktoks on mine or George’s phones than actually practicing. One time they somehow found out George’s password and were just sitting there quietly watching Tiktoks, when we finally realized it was hilarious. Sometimes it seemed like the only times they listened were when Ms. Smith, Ms. Hall, or Coach Sanders was there making sense since they’re all adults. Even with all of these challenges, we persevered as a team, and for the most part, overcame most of the challenges except for fouling, but we did improve massively before the tournament.

Saturday, May 7, 2022, was the day of the tournament, and everybody was ecstatic. Everyone arrived at the MLK Rec Center around 10 AM, where we first watched some kindergarteners play on mini hoops, and then the fourth and fifth graders prepared for their game against Sunrise Elementary at 11 AM. Once they finished warming up, Head Coach George Breed personally did the call-outs for his team, the game started, and the gym was electric. It was a tough battle that went back and forth for the majority of the game. The two teams couldn’t have been more polar opposites in their playstyle; Sunrise relied heavily upon their two-star players, and we used rotation and passing as a means to win on both ends of the court. In the end, we lost 13-8, but the players gave it they’re all until the final buzzer. It was heartbreaking seeing how disappointed the kids looked after their loss, but between the teachers, parents, and coaches they eventually cheered up. After the game, players and coaches from both teams, teachers, community leaders, and police officers gathered around to take pictures and then laid in wait for the second and third graders’ game at 1 PM. By the time 1 o’clock rolled around, the gym was nearly empty, and they were wrapping up the event because we had just been informed before the game that the team we were supposed to play dropped out. I knew how excited my kids were to play because they bugged me every 5 minutes until the game started asking when they were going to get to play, so with the help of the refs, I made the game happen. Some of the players left since it was announced that they wouldn’t have a game, so we ended up with enough for a 3-on-3. I made the teams as evenly matched as possible and was successful until I added a fourth grader to each team who was staying behind to watch the game. One of them took over the game to the point that the refs were trying to hold him back from getting the ball.

The game ended 10-1, but the score was beside the point. All of my players had ample amounts of fun playing in the game even asking me if they could play again, and I had fun being torn between coaching and cheering for both teams. After the game, we gathered around, just as we did after the fourth and fifth-grade game, to take a group picture, then closed out with a few sentimental words from their favorite coach, me, and our signature “Tigers on 3”. Each player got their goodbye from me, and thus my time as Coach Breed officially ended, for the time being.


I can’t properly talk about this experience without a shoutout to the principal of M.I. Logan, Mr. Moore; the teacher who headed the program at M.I. Logan, Ms. Hall; the coach at M.I. Logan, Coach Sanders; and the teacher who headed the program on YMLA’s end, Ms. Smith. All of these administrators worked diligently to make this experience possible for both the players and coaches and made it a president that all of us students were getting something positive out of the experience.

Now reminiscing on my time as a coach I am grateful. I am grateful for being able to coach these kids because it taught me things about myself and the potential for my future. I can honestly say, with a smile on my face, that I enjoyed every moment from beginning to end; and the same can be said for the other coaches as well. Not only are we coach thankful for the experience, but we are also thankful for the new names we were presented; so, to end this off, from Chicken Alfredo, the Little Midget, Lil Tecca, Coach Johnson, and both Coach Malones’ we want to say to the kids; “Be great, have fun, and keep hooping.”