Joshua B. Guild,

       It wasn’t exactly Rick Pitino coaching the Boston Celtics to victory over the defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls on opening night, but you have to start somewhere. Tonight I made my basketball coaching debut. Sixth-grade boys basketball. Benjamin Banneker Charter School vs. Somerville Charter School. Athletic competition in its purest form–noble, untainted, and a little bit rough around the edges.
       Sixth-grade boys basketball is our school’s first foray into interschool athletics. We hope to build off the success of the team in order to create an athletic program of several teams, serving a wide range of students, both girls and boys. Someday our teams will dominate charter schools all across Massachusetts. We will hang championship banners from the walls of our school. Our kids will be model student-athletes, featured in the Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated for Kids. But greatness springs from humble beginnings. For now, we have a ragtag group of 12-year-olds who practice in a half-court gym that also serves as a cafeteria and auditorium.
       Because discipline is a major issue with our sixth-graders, particularly the boys, it was decided to open up the team to all the boys but to choose only 12 players each week, based on behavior and academic standing, to represent the school at the games. This has made playing basketball an incentive and a privilege (as it should be). Unfortunately, this arrangement has had the adverse side effect of creating something of a revolving door on the team. In the last week, four students were suspended for fighting, three students were prevented from participating due to academics, two students were barred for other discipline problems, and two students were unable to play on account of Ramadan. Suffice it to say, all this coming and going makes developing a team that much more of a challenge.
       Our first practice was last week. Let’s just say that I have some raw material to work with. Picture feet shuffling after only a couple of laps around our minuscule gym; balls bouncing every which way during dribbling drills; players tripping over each other while learning defensive footwork. But for all the comedy, the 90 minutes I spent with those kids was incredibly enjoyable. Every minute was what teachers refer to as a “teachable moment,” an opportunity to guide, to demonstrate, to show, to model. For that hour and a half, I was in a zone with those kids. More than anything, I was reminded why I chose to teach.
       As for tonight’s game … we lost by 14 points. But, man, it was a lot of fun.