So, it’s Saturday morning here in Toulouse. I’m just waking up with a nice cup of coffee, and since Toulouse is rugby country, there is a game, excuse me, a match on the television. The New Zealand All Blacks are playing against Argentina in the 4 Nations. Between the Rugby World Cup, Heineken Cup, and 6 Nations last year I’ve become very familiar with it and actually really enjoy watching the sport. I’ll be enjoying this fine French coffee and the game as I try recount my past week here in the south of France.
After an awesome weekend in Bordeaux it was back to Toulouse on Sunday. It was an extremely basketball-filled week, combined with a bit of sightseeing, studying of French, and culminated in my first preseason game as a player for St. Oren’s.
Each evening this week I was either coaching or playing – or both. I discussed Monday’s training in a previous post. Tuesday I had my first training with the U15 boys team, which is one of the main teams that I will be coaching by myself this season. The group of boys that I have for this team are AWESOME! We had a ton of fun in our first two sessions this week. They have limited English just as I have limited French. However, I have been picking up phrases here and there that help me to explain certain drills, what I want to see them do, etc, such as “pas comme ca, comme ca” – “not like this, like this”, “a droit” – “right’, “a gauche” – “left”…just to name a few. We have an agreement that they will help me learn French and I will help them with their English, especially because they are all studying English in school. I also made an agreement with them at the first training (with the help of Philippe as a translator) that if they promise to work as hard as possible in our training sessions then I will do all I can to help them become the best players and the best teams that they can possibly be. They openly accepted the challenge.
I have to say, even with limited communication between myself and the boys, we have had a ton of fun this first week! Just in body language and me jumping around acting like a wild man from time to time helps to keep them having fun. Furthermore, as I pick up phrases here and there in conjunction with slowly demonstrating what I want to see, the boys are able to understand what I am trying to teach them. The second session we had, which was Thursday, had much less translating from Philippe, which I look at as a step in the right direction.
-A few photos from our training on Tuesday
-My notebook with a few phrases that I had been writing down to help with the practice
Then I had an hour and a half break or so after the U14 training until I had my training with the men’s team. In that time I just prepared changed, stretched and got myself ready. Then, I started doing a bit of ball handling with the son of Regis, who owns the best pizza shop in Toulouse, is on the board of St. Oren’s and whom I will be helping to run the basketball academy starting this week.
We had an intense training session as it was the first one where we had the whole team together. The first training that I participated in last Thursday was very different from this one. There were about 5 or 6 new faces this time and we had about 14 people which was great. Once again, Fabien, my coach would give instructions in French, but a few of my teammates who speak good English helped to explain a few things for me.
-Trying my best to understand Fabien
Wednesday afternoon I had training with the U12 girls team. They were a very funny group who I will be helping to coach. Their coach had a meeting with Philippe so I ran the whole session, which I will do again this week. After that I will just be assisting with these practice sessions (I think). But either way we had a lot of fun and because they are 12, I worked a lot on fundamentals with them. Ballhandling, layups, form shooting, full court lay ups, etc. In speaking with Jerome last weekend, the coach from Bordeaux, we feel the same way about coaching young kids. Emphasize fundamentals!!! Too often when kids are being coached at a young age, it is simply how are we going to win the next game? That’s not the way kids should be taught. They need to develop the skills required to play basketball above all else. Keep in mind, Jerome brought his team last year to the French national championship, which is a HUGE deal! Not to mention, Gaetan, the other coach I met in Bordeaux, actually won the national championship last year. Here is a photo I took when we were leaving Bordeaux and Gaetan was starting his practice with his U15 girls.
As soon as the girls came into the gym, they grabbed a ball, went to a basket and started working on form shooting. This is something that I tried to stress to the kids I coached in Ireland all last year. All the best shooters always start in close to the basket. So if any of you guys in Ireland see this, look at how one of the best teams in France starts their training!!!!
Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from my session with the U12 girls, as I’m sure some would have been pretty funny. After their training, it was another training session with the women’s team. Then Thursday, as previously stated, I had my second training with the U14 boys which was great. I’m also putting a strong emphasis on fundamentals with them, but combining it with some more advanced drills, as well as quickness, and a lot of defense. After their session, it was off to one of the other gyms that St. Oren’s uses for practice with my team. I missed the training with Philippe and the women’s team that night because my team’s training was scheduled at the same time. We had a good session, put in a few offenses, and tried our best to prepare for our game on Friday.
So Friday came around and we only had 7 guys for our game. We played a team, no idea what they were called, that apparently plays up one division from us. Unfortunately we lost the game by 9, but we were more than capable of winning. We realize that we have a lot to work on before the season officially gets underway in a few weeks, but there were a lot of positives that came out of the game.
Once again, I don’t have any photos from the game. However, it’s not photos of the game itself that I want to show. What I wish I had photos of were a bunch of my U14 boys that came to the game, cheering loudly for us, and even made a sign for me that said “Let’s Go Tim!” Receiving all this support from the boys, as well as many other people from the club who were in attendance, after only one week really made me feel welcome and at home here in Toulouse. This is sure to be a great season!
As I mentioned before, I spent a couple days doing a bit of sightseeing around the city of Toulouse, so here are a few photos I figured I would share.
-Capitol and Market
-Toulouse street with Basilique de St. Sernin in the back
-Yes. That’s a dude riding a unicycle with a red hat.
-Had to do it
All in all a great first week in Toulouse. Going to relax today and head around town and watch a few different basketball games – 1 being Regis’ son’s game and another will be Jerome’s team because they came down from Bordeaux for a tournament in Toulouse.