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Mar. 21st, 2006 @ 08:31 am The best thank you
Ylva, Åsa, and Anna picked me up in front of Bokia. They were a little late so I stood there enjoying the sun on my face and the quietness of Sunday morning in Sweden. On the way to the school we talked about Melodifestivalen (which literally half of Sweden watched).

We got to the gym, which is really small and has seating for probably 25 people, and there was a kids' soccer game being played. I do not want to forget the little kid that scored a goal and then ran to the other end of the gym with his arms up in the air. He was half the size of some of the kids. The game finished at 10 and our game was at 1030.

A few minutes before the game ended I talked with the girls in the locker room. Ajla, who knows that I love kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls), gave me one that she brought for me. I could tell that the girls were nervous. I told them about Senior Day in the US. Then (an idea from Erin) I told them that it was Senior Day for all of them. That the odds are that none of them will play a basketball game in Karlskrona again. That today was their last home game, ever. I also told them that they will always remember this game, since it is their last one at home. I told them to hold nothing back, play tough, and work hard. If you do that, good things will happen. You could tell that this game meant a lot to them and they looked a little nervous, but fired up at the same time.

I looked at the other team's lineup and I realized that the other team did not bring the two girls that we had to focus on. I switched back and forth about to tell our team that and decided to tell them. They were excited, but then I told them that the other team was thinking that they did not need them. The game started at 11, so I knew that we could jump on the other team early in the game(which had about a three hours drive that morning). We jumped on them early with hustle and hard work, but our baskets were just no falling around the hoop. It was a close game, then our outside shots (which when we take them I sometimes close my eyes) started falling. In this league, shots close in are much higher percentage shots than ones from even 15 feet, let 18 feet. Our shots were falling and we were getting a lot of second chances which resulted in us getting to the free throw line often. We still do no shoot as good as we should, but we are shooting a lot better.

I assigned Glenda the task of shutting down the other teams point guard. She was on her the whole time. Just all over her. It got to the point that the girl started complaining to the refs, pushing Glenda a little, and holding her arm and pushing to get away. She ended up with only six points and numerous turnovers. I had a little problem at the end of the first half. We had two players with two fouls (Glenda and Åsa). Åsa then decided to put herself back in the game. I had to think quick, but I saw we only had one minute left in the half and I did not want to lose her mentally for the rest of the game, so I decided to leave her in. At the half I brought her over and explained why she was not in the game (two fouls with less than a few minutes left in the first half) and we just cannot do that ever again. She understood. I also had to explain to Ajla that she cannot push a girl out of bounds with both hands. She gets fired up once in awhile and I had to tell her that somebody could get hurt and it is not basketball.

We kept a 6 to 13 point lead the rest of the game. We had such balanced scoring. We were up 10 with about one minute to go. We slowed it down and one the game by 6. The girls ran out on the court. The about six people that were there watching the game were so happy. There were two handball teams (that were playing after us) watching the end of the game, too. Both teams slapped hands and congratulated each other. I could see it. The other team was pretty shocked. They did not expect it. Just four weeks ago, we played that team on the same court and they won by 31. Again, they left a couple of girls at home, but a game is a game. A winning feeling is a winning feeling.

After the game I went in the locker room with the girls and congratulated them on the hard work and the game. They were so happy. They had not won a game for well over a year.

Dagge played so well and attacked the hoop. She is a talented girl, who with some more work, can get pretty good. Ylva did everything. Not as many points as she is accustomed to, but I explained to her that she did everything out there. She took balls away from girls, played great defense and I never heard her say 'sorry' to another girl this game (which is good). Åsa got to the line a few times and got her share of rebounds. She played with so much intensity. Ajla plays so tough and hard. She did a great job on defense and played the point great when Dagge was out. When she gets a rebound, she puts her elbows out and look out. She may have the best fundamentals (passing, rebounding, boxing out) of them all. Anna, only her second game back played great. Got a lot of loose balls and tip the ball around a lot. She got some nice easy baskets. Fannie is not the biggest girl. Actually, she is one of our slenderest girls and has no ounce of fat on her. If you look at her, you think that she would get pushed around, easily. I have no idea how she does it, but if she does not lead the team in rebounds, she is real close. Actually, I think she does. It is just ridiculous. She is a Viking. She made a few baskets also. She is a really good player. Actually, I think she is just one of those freak athletes that does not really play sports a whole much, but when she does, she does it all well. Real well. Then Glenda. She played lights out. She got on her girl so hard. Just in her face the whole game. Her shot six weeks ago was not good. She would even tell you that. She made about four baskets yesterday and I could not have been happier for her. Plus she got numerous steals. She is the only girl that has come to every practice. She never complains about running. She wants to run and work harder. EVERY sprint, she does it 100%. A team full of Glendas is what a coach wants. She understands that to succeed you have to work and she does it. I have been working with her so much on her defense and get on her pretty hard sometimes. All of her hard work paid off on Sunday.

This is a team that is just trying to win a game. Scratching, clawing, will to do anything to feel the happiness of winning, just once. We were so close a few weeks ago and got killed last game. I have been on teams that all you want to do is win a game. Sports are a crazy thing. We all know that sports is just a game, but sometimes you just get beatup so much, it is tough to get back up. These girls keep getting back up. At this age (15-19), you do not want to lose and you realize if you work hard, you will get better. You have other things in life that are just as important, but at the same time, these girls have been playing for at least three years together. I have seen some of the scores from last year and the years before. There have been some that make our 31 point loss a really good game. It is just the decision, do I want to work hard. Do I want to keep getting back up. Is it important for me. When it comes to this team, it is a bunch of girls that only have themselves. There is no constant in the club. There is not feeder teams, just them. Their jerseys, balls, courts, structure are in no comparison to the level of the other three teams. Any away game is at least two hours away. They have had more coaches, if you call someone who only comes once in awhile and for only part of a year, than I don't know. I was so happy for them. I explained yesterday at practice that I was proud that they worked hard and played hard. And that I was happy for them that they won. There is a big difference, and they needed to know that.

After I talked with them I went to use the bathroom and I was thinking what would give them the best chance to win next week. One game on Saturday (without me) and one game on Sunday (with me) or two games on Sunday (with me). When I came out to tell them what I was thinking, they told me that they had just talked about it and wanted to play two on Sunday. At this time, we do not know if it will work out or not because of scheduling for the other team, but that was all the thank you that I needed.
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