Basketball tryouts were this weekend, for both boys and girls. 7 girls showed up, so they all made the team. As for the boys, Jon and I were left with the task of culling a field of 22 and shaping them into a cohesive whole. We started out with five laps around the court during which Jon, not exactly in the physical prime of his youth, outpaced everyone. Everyone.
Ignoring this, we moved on into a drill designed to measure the defensive quickness of the players. We had them sidestep from one corner of the court to the intersection of the half-court line and the other side of the court and then to the opposite corner at the other end of the court. All the numbers from this little exercise were useless, though, as no one was capable of sidestepping properly - most either just gave up and ran or did more of a quasi-parabola than a triangle. No one would have stopped anyone dedicated to driving the lane.
Okay, at this point I'm realizing that even the Delinquents (who participated in and supposedly won one of the coronation basketball tournaments, impressively beating teams like the Army's) and the boys who claim (somewhat legitimately - several were decked out in national team shorts) to have been on the under-16 national basketball team (there is no over-16 team) have never been exposed to anything even like what junior high basketball team practices are like in the states. We move onto the next drill: running down the court one at a time, throwing the ball at the backboard, grabbing your rebound, making a layup, and returning to the other end to make another layup. I think only one or two kids were capable of catching their own rebound, and most couldn't make even one layup. Again the data is useless as no one is actually sprinting or apparently grasping the fundamental skills being displayed here.
We move on to suicides (which one of the boys has done before. Ironically, this messes up the drill, as he does them correctly while everyone else does the bastardized easy version I explained to everyone) and then to push-ups, at which point I am flabbergasted to hear this coming from my star-suicider:
"No, we never did push-ups on the national team."
What?!? How do you compete in any skill without the most basic of strength-enhancing exercises? I demonstrate the usefulness of strength in basketball by demonstrating a posting-up move on the youth, only to be met with absolutely no resistance. Apparently he wasn't lying.
Okay, I take a deep breath and get back to the push-ups - 10 of which we are unable to complete - and then continue on with 2-on-2 matchups (half of which end without any scoring from either duo) and end on power layups: jumping with both feet into the air 2 feet from the basket and banking a shot in, grabbing the rebound/made shot, switching to the other side of the basket and repeating (also commonly known as a "bunnies" for the hopping motion). They do decently at this, with most of the kids posting between 10-14 made shots in 30 seconds. At half a second a kid, this leaves most people left with nothing to do for a while, which becomes a blessing in disguise - the really dedicated kids wait around for a second chance at the drill. Finally people are showing some dedication here.
We run another 3 laps and then perform some free-throws under pressure: for every 3 shots they miss, I promise to make them run a suicide. We get up to four, and I relent by offering to reduce the number by one if the last shooter makes his shot. Fortunately this is the most skilled kid at the practice, and he nails it, thereby saving me from the impossible task of getting these guys to do four suicides. We slog through the three and move on to scrimmages and the most absurd mismatch of showy dribbling, no-look passes, and missed shots found outside of the AND1 tour.
Total number of successful drills (out of 4): 1
Total number of mullets: 1
Total number of shots made by both sides in the first 5-minute scrimmage: 3
Total number of water bottles brought: 2, both mine
My new nickname (overheard by Jon by the water spigot/sprinkler system): Coach Carter
There were several bright points, however. Bright point numero uno: Jon and I have observed a fair number of pickup basketball games around Bhutan, and these kids are highly skilled compared to the general populace - they have correct shooting form, for one. Bright point numero dos: K***** T*****, a footballer for the Bhutan national team who claims to have not played basketball before but who is obviously a gifted athlete and a quick study - he starts out doing the bunnies by making only 5 in the half minute only to repeat twice and end up making 18, the highest score by 2 shots. His form is great, he's quiet and respectful, and I see him grabbing the rim at one point - I am going to teach this kid to jam. To steal Jon's words, take that JPBG - you can teach non-native English speakers to sing along with the Arcade Fire; we're going to teach Asian children to dunk.