“One More.” This fragment has become the offensive battle cry for my 6thgrade basketball team at Loyola Academy of St. Louis. “One More” originates from my lacrosse days and has made a smooth transition between sports. “One More” is a passing strategy that insists on players to always be looking for one more pass – to be aware of your teammates’ presence and moving the ball one more, until ultimately finding the right player, at the right place, and at the right time. Not only does it create a high-octane offense that unapologetically punishes 6th grade CYC defenses (thanks to probably the front runner for the CYC 6th Grade Coach of the Year award*), but also is a great play off the court.
“One More” mirrors the Loyola Community’s approach to ASC this past year. Loyola Academy requires you to be flexible. As an ASC member, you must be willing to stretch yourself to every position in the school. I cook, I clean, I teach, I library (?), I assist, I tutor, and I coach. I am Gumby. Both of my ASC teammates have also lengthened their responsibilities. Sarah frequently sits in on Math and English classes and assists the school social worker, and Steve has been crunching numbers for the business wing. At Loyola, you do not cut corners, but cut to a different corner. You help out wherever, whenever you are needed. “One More” is not just taking on more roles, but also doing more within that role. It’s a never-ending devotion to be the right person, at the right place, and at the right time to help school and its students.
In August, the Athletic Director at Loyola approached me about coaching 6th grade basketball. I didn’t say yes right away. I was apprehensive to take the helm. Although I love basketball, I am frankly a sub par baller. When I was asked a second time in October, however, I consented – as whole-heartedly as that word implies. Without any reflection, I just said, “yes,” and treated basketball like an inferior responsibility to my teaching and other ASC duties. I did just enough, but never gave it any extra.
But then a miracle happened. In late December, my 6th graders beat the 2013 6th grade CYC champions, Loyola’s 7th grade team, in our first game. The win gave me inexplicable joy and a sense of accomplishment. It was not the scoreboard, but my players who sparked these feelings. At the buzzer, the 6th grade bench stormed the court in exuberance and there was not a shortage of smiles. My students may like Spanish and enjoy reading, but they love basketball. I recalled the intangibles sports taught me when I was their age –work ethic, teamwork, and sportsmanship – and understood my position on their team a little more deeply. This is where I pivoted, from Mr. Azar to Coach Azar, and I love it. Coaching basketball has allowed me to forge closer bonds with my students, to see them in a new light and to teach from a more relatable standpoint.
We’ve passed halftime in our ASC year and I am already looking down court. Okay, I’ll stop with the basketball puns, but you get the idea. I am guilty of letting my focus drift away from Loyola and towards my future. As my ASC year winds down, I hope to keep assisting Loyola as much as possible in an effort to make the most out of my time here. In other words, listening to my own coaching.
*I’ve been reminded several times that the CYC 6th Grade Basketball Coach of the Year award doesn’t exist. To which I reply, “I can always buy a trophy.”