For any coach or player the most exciting part about playing a sport is the tournament. I can still remember the excitement and drama of the state final four a few years ago. Every practice was crucially important; each day would bring a tension that you could not ignore. The same is true for the teams at GCA. The big difference is that here that is pretty much ALL we have to look forward to. In our league there are no season records or standings. You can contact other schools for games but they mean absolutely nothing in regards to the end of the year results. In the States a team will play anywhere from 20 to 30 real games before any type of elimination begins. If your team does not fair well in post season play it usually is not the end of the world because you have a lot of season memories and (hopefully) wins to hang your hat on. For our basketball team this year the weekend of the tournament was a lot like a high school prom. Allow me to explain.
Prom is arguably the most anticipated event for the senior class and many hours go into the planning, purchasing, tanning and stressing. Many seniors start planning who they will go to the prom with at the start of school! The build-up for this monumental (and at the same time utterly pointless) night is overbearing for most high-schoolers. The night comes and goes and memories are made, pictures are taken, rugs are cut and many a Waffle House makes their quota. Then comes the morning after. I distinctly remember what I mumbled to myself as I rolled out of bed that Saturday after the big night. “That was it?”
Our trip this year to our “Big Dance” (pun intended) was about 6 hours. One way. In rinky dink school vans. Sound like fun? Did I mention that in the past when we make this trip we sleep on the gym floor on Friday to save money? Oh I forgot that 3 other teams would be doing the same! This would mark my 3rd time to the south of the island and believe me I was about as thrilled as Walter Matthau would be to sleep on a hard gym floor once again. Our first game was scheduled for 5:30 Friday night against a team I have never faced but our school is 1-0 all time against them so we were hoping to have history on our side. Let’s just say that we are now 1-1 and more than likely trailing badly in point differential. Following our loss I remember thinking, “This is what we have been waiting to experience? A long, ipodless ride where I can only fall asleep long enough to lose the feeling in my legs because of the cramped space. We get pounded by a local team that will enjoy the comfort of their own beds. On the other hand not only will I lose sleep over losing (which I do no matter where I sleep) I get to lose sleep in the very gym where we suffered the loss! Is this is a cruel joke?”
Right then I must have felt like the guy who gets rejected when he asks his crush to prom. Maybe it was like the poor soul who spills punch all over his tuxedo, or even worse, on his date with the bright yellow dress. That’s when something magical and unexpected happened. I was informed that my assistant coach, my players and I would NOT be staying at the gym that night. Our principal had found a hotel that was “reasonable” and so off we went to check into our new quarters. I have to admit, I was not expecting anything amazing so when we arrived I was more than shocked. This hotel was, as my wife likes to say, “A Big Deal” and as I say, “The Real Deal”. Our rooms were on the 28th floor overlooking the city lights of Kaoshiung. Our pool and Jacuzzi were on the 8th floor where we decided to have a pizza party. The principal’s husband who is also the school chancellor volunteered to take all of the boys to a night market so the coaches could have some cool down time before we went to bed. I was able to catch an NBA game on the TV right after I watched the thrilling end of “Prom Night”, which I don’t recommend, but had to share because of the irony. It is safe to say that the tournament went from being dreadful to the best I have experienced. It is amazing what a 5 star hotel will do for morale! Winning the next day also helped but at any rate it was one of my most memorable tournaments. Our school here in Taiwan does not have a prom. In my mind, it does not need one.