My childhood was largely centered around basketball. From 2nd grade, all the way up to my senior year of high school most of my weekends were spent inside of a gym, either working out or playing in a tournament. *Disclaimer* I did also participate in normal childhood activities, but there’s no denying basketball was a large part of my life.
Throughout my “career” I really only had four coaches, not including my dad. For this particular post, I would like to highlight the coach that introduced me to the game. The coach that made me fall in love with the game. His name is Shannon Lang.
I met Shannon when I was 8 or 9 and played with him until the summer before my senior year. Our team name was Camp Unity. I was on the first team Camp Unity had, it has since grown tremendously and that is only a representation of the type of coach Coach Shannon is.
When I think about my time playing basketball, I am flooded with memories of long practices, weekend tournaments, line drills, push ups, workouts, and family. Camp Unity was my family. Especially when we first started. We were young, we had no idea what we were doing, but Coach Shannon was there to guide us.
Coach Shannon made practice fun. I will never forget the first time he told us all to grab a ball and get ready to practice dribbling. I was a post and hated when we did dribbling drills. But then all of a sudden Kirk Franklin started blasting through the speakers and Shannon was up front swaying from side to side with the beat. He looked at us and told us to follow what he did. By the end of the drill, Shannon had taught us an entire “dribble dance” to a Kirk Franklin song. It was the best.
Now I don’t think I ever had a coach that got as fired up during games as Shannon did. I remember numerous occasions where he would get benched for getting so fired up at a ref. He also got really fired up at us too. But he wasn’t the type of coach that only yelled at you when you messed up.He was by far the best cheerleader on the sideline during games too.
When we were younger, and awful at free throws, to motivate us Shannon said that for every free throw we made, he would do a backflip. Sure enough, when we made a free throw, all you had to do was look at the sideline and there was Coach Shannon, doing a backflip in the middle of a game. It was awesome.
Coach Shannon is one of the main reasons I stuck with basketball for as long as I did. When I entered high school, my confidence in my talent dropped a lot. I had a hard time connecting with the coach and it was just tough. I started to lose the love I had for the game. But even when I wanted to throw the towel in and hang up my jersey for good, Shannon was right there to tell me that he believed in me and that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.
Can’t was not allowed to be in our vocabulary. Anytime we were caught saying can’t during practice, we would have to either run or do pushups or something awful like that. As we would be doing our punishment, Shannon would blow his whistle and at the sound of the beep, we all chanted “I can. I will. I am.” That was our motto. That is what helped push me to finish high school ball.
To Coach Shannon, if you happen to read this, thank you for everything. As hard as it was for me toward the end, I looked forward to practices with you. I miss the late summer nights spent in hot gyms practicing for weekend tournaments. I miss the conditioning you would put us through. Thank you for always believing in me, even during those times I didn’t believe in myself.