The most humbling moment for me was watching the kids love to play basketball. We started coaching from the ground up in a sport that they were largely unfamiliar with and culminated with a scrimmage at the end of camp. On the last day, the teams competed in 4v4 half-court basketball. It was set up bracket style – a 16 team field in both grade levels, one of the four color teams in each region. It was pretty difficult to explain March Madness to the Vietnamese coaches- and hype it up to the Stanford athletes (whose basketball team does not give them the annual excitement that Duke’s does each March), but once they understood the bracket concept, they saw how exciting and competitive it would be. After a lot of organization with my fellow basketball coaches, Sajan, Tara, Sỹ and Hương, the teams were set and the bracket was released.
Saturday, July 15 – Last Competition Day. The morning began with 8th grade basketball and 9th grade immediately following. All four color teams were competing at the same time and the competitive spirits of all the D1 athletes in the room were at an all-time high. Each game was three minutes long and began with a jump ball. Teams exemplified impressive dribbling and passing ability with even some effective off-ball movement. It was especially exciting for me to see some kids consistently make layups after I had stressed hitting the corner of the square on the backboard hundreds of times in the previous weeks. The small team size encouraged contribution from every member of the team meaning the girls had a major impact on the game, which was great to see. I was the referee as well as the facilitator of the game, as many still didn’t completely understand out of bounds or the concept of fouling. While I did overlook double dribbles and some other common basketball rules, being able to control the flow of the game without help from the Vietnamese coaches was a major accomplishment for me. The scoring was more than we expected, including some kids knocking down mid-range jump shots followed by the NBA celebrations that we taught them throughout camp. The competition level was amplified as teams moved on to later rounds. The championship rounds were very exciting as was the third place games in each grade level. The bracket style and small teams proved to be extremely effective in maximizing competition and promoting quality basketball all while leading to a clear winner being crowned.
“Looking back, I hope I taught the kids of Long My, Vietnam half of what they taught me. I am blessed to have been a part of this program.”
One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten was from the camp director, Seth, who told the other basketball coaches and me that this was the best basketball he has ever seen played at any of the Coach For College camps. Maybe it was the drills we ran as coaches, or maybe it was the Spurs Ball Movement YouTube video that we showed one day. Either way, it spoke volumes to us as coaches, and made me appreciate these kids even more. For us to introduce a sport to many who have never seen or played basketball before and have them put forth such a great effort to learn and play the game was inspiring. Watching the kids compete with impressive ball movement and spacing as well as good dribbling, passing, and scoring brought an incredible feeling to us coaches. Despite the very different lives that we live, I am blessed to have created such a great bond through the sport of basketball. It was humbling to teach them some of these skills, but it was not nearly as important as what they taught me: the open-mindedness it takes for them to bring a great attitude to camp each day, the resilience it takes for some of them to ride a bicycle for over an hour to school each day, or the genuine happiness to be content with so little. Looking back, I hope I taught the kids of Long My, Vietnam half of what they taught me. I am blessed to have been a part of this program.