Sports writer jumps off the bench to take a chance on the hardboards
I informed you all many months ago that I was pursuing a career in coaching. Obviously this change in career path would eventually lead to the end of my career as a writer. Well, that time is very near.
I have pursued every option available to me to achieve the educational experience necessary to fulfill my goal and dream of coaching basketball. That pursuit led me back to my beloved MidAmerica Nazarene University, which I have attended since August.
That was the first step. The second step -- well, that one isn't quite as conventional.
I approached one of my greatest role models, MidAmerica head basketball coach Rocky Lamar, about possibly stepping in as an assistant basketball coach this season. I considered the opportunity to be a great learning experience -- a sort of internship. Unfortunately Coach Lamar had already added two former basketball players to his staff and an opportunity for me simply didn't exist.
Plan B. My alternative plan of action was -- and is -- a little nuts. I decided to dust off the old basketball shoes and learn my lessons from the other side of the coaching line. That's right. I walked on the basketball team.
This was a difficult and risky move for an old man of 27. I have often considered a return to the hardwood, but as the years went by that consideration considerably faded.
But I revisited the idea, and I thought that this may be my best option since my first avenue of on-the-job training was closed.
And then my thoughts snowballed. This is my last shot at playing. This is my best opportunity to saturate myself in a program that can teach me better than any. And finally, this is my last shot at preventing future regrets.
So I did it.
I showed up for the team meeting Sept. 1. I entered a room filled with 18-year-old phenoms and curious faces. I looked around at a coaching staff of which just two of six members were older than me. It was a bit nerve-wrecking.
I wondered if the old legs had much left in them. I wondered if I could shake the rust off the jump shot fast enough. I wondered what was going through the heads of the kids around me. And I wondered what was going through my own head.
We finished the meeting by reviewing the upcoming September schedule: off-season conditioning. Coach Lamar's conditioning program is rather legendary. He has always taken a perverse pride in the fact his team runs, lifts and plays earlier, later and more often than any other team in the league. For a somewhat out-of-shape 20-something, it was a bit of a daunting schedule.
Nevertheless, that schedule was a mandatory obstacle for this insane mission of mine. The entirety of September consisted of terrible two-a-days, lots of ice, and a bottle of Advil.
I've never worked so hard in my life.
In the meantime, I tried to balance my schoolwork, my homework, and my work at the News, not to mention dedicating crucial time to my fiancee, her little girl and the rest of my family and friends.
That balancing act nearly destroyed me, but I kept my eye on the prize and focused an immediate goal on just surviving conditioning. And I did. But that's when we got the next four months' schedule, and it only gets more intense.
Midnight of Oct. 1 marked the official kick-off of the NAIA basketball season. That midnight scrimmage produced one of the most memorable moments of my life. For the first time the real-life "Mr. 3000" was out in front of his MidAmerica family. I finished the brief run with five points, three boards, an assist, a turnover and a powerful realization that one great experience would soon end another.
The dedication of a collegiate athlete, a student and a family man left no time to properly fulfill my duties with the Eudora News. My tenure as Eudora's sports reporter therefore must end. My time here has been one of the most magical experiences of my life.
I hate the crazy hours, I hate the pay, and I hate interviewing a teenager after his or her season has come to an end. But I loved this job. I've informed my editor that as soon as a proper replacement is found, my resignation would take effect.
In the meantime I will soak up every precious moment I have left as a member of this community. I will surely post a final column reflecting on my brief two years with the Cardinals as soon as it is officially over. Until then, I hope I'll see you around.