My team is cool,
We haven’t come together, though,
Young ones,
Still trying to understand
Teams are greater than individuals,
The stuff of sacrifice, and that
Winning is more about attitude than results.
We’ll figure it out
Because all of us are cool,

It is 7:59 on June 5, 2016 and I am writing this as a tribute to my old basketball coach, Jerry Farrior. Why 7:59? That is because for three seasons, Saturday morning practices started at 7:59am. One more minute, 8:00, and sprints or some other unsavory ridicule would be gifted to anyone who wanted to get there late. Here’s how it went:

7:30: We started arriving and shooting jumpers. If the balls weren’t out, Tim Marsh would start singing John Cougar songs.

7:59: “Let’s go. Lay ups.” That would be Coach Farrior. He would be rocking a Fayetteville Polo, tennis shorts of early 80s appropriate length, low cut Pro Keds with mid-calf socks. We quickly got in lines and started with lay ups and jump shots.

8:09: Monkey Drills: These were the worst form conditioning next to whatever CrossFit would throw my way years later as an adult. I hated the drill. Essentially, we made a figure-8 around the gym using the baselines and sidelines as our Spirograph while tapping the floor with each shuffle. Yo, Johnny Wallace, did you have to go so fast?

8:19: Passing Drills: In this one we shuffled from one end of the gym to the other while completing whatever pass with either a basketball or a weighted basketball. If the pass was not complete, the duo had to complete another trip. Two hands, Russell…

8:29: Shuffle Drills: Take a defensive stance and shuffle as quickly as possible across the lane on the basketball court. 10x, 9x, 8x…

8:39: 1v1 Full Court: Two guys go out and play one on one. Loser stays. Hey Me, why did you go so early? It makes for a long morning when you lose the first game played. Heard, we survived, brother!

8:59: Free Throw Practice: Groove them now or pay later.

9:09: Game Practice

9:39: Sprints/Suicides: Everyone had to run whatever number of sprints in the time that coach called out. Sometimes I think his clock was wrong and he just made us run to run. The worst episode of this conditioning actually happened on a Thursday night, Thanksgiving 1982 or 1983… Come on, Ozzy!!! Everyone, quit cheating!!! I nearly lost my dinner on that one.

9:45: 2 or 20: Take two free throws. Make them both and practice is over. Make 1, take 10 laps. Miss 2, take 20 laps.

10:00: Practice is done. Hardees, home, shower, nap…

Sometimes the Saturdays got to be hard. As a sophomore, I didn’t get to play much. As a junior, I played a lot. As a senior, my playing time decreased as the season went on. To be fair, I was an average player. I had a decent jump shot and played good defense. I had no handle or hops and I made bad decisions with the ball from time to time. I wasn’t scared on the court, though. Coach Farrior got me to be tough with loose ball and boxing out drills. Even though I was not gifted with the backside spread of coach, I understood how to use my butt and elbows to hold my position. None of the teams we faced had players that scared me. I probably should have been scared of the kid from Denbigh who got taken from a college class we were in by the Newport News police. I’ll also admit I tried to stay away from the Hampton coach. I’m not sure what he said to me on the sidelines once, but I know it was the one time in my life I felt compelled to keep my mouth shut. Anyway, I think that toughness came from my coach and in part, his unique start time for practice.

Thanks, Coach.