“Dimchek, this play won’t work if you can’t block out your defender,” Pat said after stopping the full court scrimmage. “Get planted and don’t let her push you out of position.”
“Yes, Coach,” the rookie instantly responded.
“Try spreading your legs a little wider,” Terry instructed the rookie she was guarding. “That gives you better balance.”
“Thanks,” Dimchek said with a smile.
“Gallagher, Pete, take a break. Hudson, Amie take their places. Let’s go.”
Pete ran to the sideline, making sure she didn’t slow to a trot under after she crossed it. “Coach is sure busting our butts this year,” she commented when she met Sherry where they had left their water bottles.
“You complaining?” Sherry asked after emptying half her bottle.
Pete smiled. “Nope.” She swallowed some water. “Just wondering if there was any particular reason?”
Sherry pointed up to the top of the arena where the team owner’s office was located. “Let’s sit down, my legs are killing me.” She dropped into the nearest seat. “Do you want to explain to Mac why we lost the trophy?” she asked, her eyes tracking the players on the court.
“Neither does Coach.”
After taking the seat next to Sherry, Pete turned to watch the action. The ten players on the court were charging past where they were seated. She watched them run by taking special note of Jackson who unnecessarily veered close to the sideline on her way down court. “What’s her story?” she asked seeing the not too subtle wink the rookie had given the assistant coach.
“Jackson, you’re out of position,” Sherry barked at the rookie. “Wish I knew,” she responded to the question with a frown.
“Yep.” Sherry shifted to face Pete. “She say something to you?”
Pete nodded. “In the locker room last night, she made a crack about trying to be friendly to you and it not being taken too well. I told her she better back off.”
“You told her… I told her… Kelley told her… Pat wants to boot her ass.”
“Why hasn’t she?”
Sherry sighed. “Same as Dawn; Jackson can, if she would concentrate on the game, be a good player. A player we can use this year.”
“I have a bad feeling about her.”
Sherry turned backed to the court action. “She’s just a punk kid.”
“After what we put up with from Dawn last year, we could get by without another problem maker... especially, for your sake,” Pete added placing a hand on Sherry’s arm.
Sherry smiled. “You’re a good friend… but Pat has to think about the team first.”
“Pete, you’re back in,” Pat called from the court.
Leaping up from her seat, Pete told Sherry, “Okay, but I’m warning you, I’m keeping my eye on that one.” She ran back onto the court as Hudson ran off.
Lifting her water bottle to her lips, Sherry drained the remaining liquid. Holding the empty bottle, she watched Hudson trot to the far end of the arena. Pushing herself up from her seat, she started down the side of the court.
Sherry walked to the table set up near the corridor, its surface covered with bottles of water and energy drinks. Hudson was standing at the end of the table watching the scrimmage. “How’s it going?” Sherry asked reaching for a bottle of Gatorade.
“It’s a lot different from college,” the rookie responded breathing heavily.
“Oh, yeah. And a lot more plays to remember.”
“It was hard for me when I came to camp last year. The game was faster… a lot more intense… and, watching what the veteran players were doing on the court, I was scared I’d make a fool of myself.”
The rookie’s head slowly turned, her doubtful eyes meeting her coach’s. “You got Rookie of the Year last season.”
“True. But I was probably the most surprised of everyone when that announcement was made. I can name a dozen players in the league that could have received that honor.”
Hudson shook her head. “No. I saw you play. You were amazing.”
Sherry laughed. “You must have seen games late in the season… I was a nervous Nelly at the beginning. And I was sure Coach was going to boot me every time I messed up.”
“I finally convinced myself that, if I messed up, I simply needed to work that much harder on the next play. You know, until that final buzzer sounds, the game is still up for grabs. Mistakes are going to happen and, generally, one mistake won’t lose a game. But mistake after mistake after mistake will. I try not to mess up but, if I do, I put it behind me and prove what I’m capable of the next time I have the ball.”
“Nobody can give you confidence in yourself, Hudson,” Sherry cut off the rookie’s response. “That has to come from you… in here,” she tapped her temple. “As a coach, I can teach you, encourage you, and correct you, but I can’t give you that. You have the skills, now you need to get it here,” she tapped her head again.
“I’m trying, Coach; I really am.”
Sherry considered the rookie’s response. “Answer me a question.”
“Um, okay,” Hudson replied hesitantly, surprised by the change of direction.
“Are you having fun?”
“Are you having fun? Basketball is a game… you’re supposed to have fun when you’re playing a game. Are you having fun?”
“I, uh… I never, umm... thought about it like that.”
Sherry smiled. “When I’m on the court, I’m having fun. I love the game and I love to play it. Nothing makes me happier than to outplay an opponent and see my shot go into the basket. It’s a total blast. Don’t you agree?”
“Um, yeah,” Hudson said, her lips curling into a smile.
“Do me a favor, Marie. Forget about the bullshit. Forget about the what ifs. Just go out there and have fun. Will you do that?”
“I’ll try, Coach.”
“To misquote Yoda, try not, do.” Sherry glanced to the players on the court. Seeing there was a break in the action, she called out. “Wendy, you’re out.” She turned back to the rookie standing beside her. “Hudson, get in there.”
“Oh, man,” Kelley muttered dropping into one of the chairs in front of Pat’s desk. “I am so glad its Friday.”
“Finally,” Sherry agreed. She stretched out her legs in front of her, groaning when she felt the tightness of her muscles. “I think I’m spending the weekend in the hot tub,” she moaned.
“I’m going to bed as soon as I get home and I’m not getting up until Monday,” Kelley said.
“Sorry, to spoil your plans,” Pat said leaning back in her chair, “but we have a game on Tuesday and we have a lot of Seattle’s game tapes to look at this weekend.” She grinned as her assistants groaned loudly. “Comes with the big paycheck, ladies.”
“My check ain’t that big,” Kelley groused.
Pat chuckled. “I’ll be sure and pass that on to Mac.”
Kelley grinned. “Good, she’ll fire me and put me out of my misery.”
“Come on,” Pat protested. “We just finished camp. You two can’t be that tired already.”
“Quiet,” Sherry mumbled, her eyes half closed, “I’m trying to sleep here.”
“Alright, let’s get this over with so we can go home and get some sleep. Anything to report?” Pat asked looking through the papers on her desk.
“Val twisted her ankle,” Kelley said.
“Lizzie says she’ll be spending the weekend in the training room soaking it; but she should be fine by Monday.”
Sherry yawned. “I’ve got nothing.”
“Okay, let’s meet back here tomorrow at nine.”
“I’ll try to pry my eyes open by then,” Kelley muttered.
“I’ll have Mac spring for breakfast,” Pat offered cheerfully.
“No, thanks,” Sherry grumbled. “Mac’s idea of breakfast is a dozen day old donuts from the local mini-mart.” She forced herself up from the chair. “We can get up early and you can take me out,” she told an amused Pat. “Want to join us?” she asked Kelley.
“I’d rather have the extra hour of sleep.”
“Me, too,” Sherry confessed. “Can we go home now, honey? Oh, crap,” she sputtered realizing she had broken the rule about keeping their personal life out of the office.
Kelley laughed. “It’s late; we’re all tired… I’ll let that one go.”
“Bless you,” Sherry mouthed.
“My eyeballs are going to fall out of my head,” Sherry groaned placing her notebook on the empty chair beside to rub her eyes. Along with Pat and Kelley, she had been sitting in the arena’s video room watching tapes of their upcoming opponent for several hours. She stood up and stretched out her back, then headed for the table where trays of picked over refreshments waited. Finding a somewhat still appetizing looking bearclaw, she picked it up. “I’m beat,” she announced before biting into the pastry.
Frustrated by her assistant’s interruption, Pat said, “Come on, Sherry, we still have tape to look at.”
Unenthusiastically, Sherry moved back toward her seat. “Seriously, Pat, I can barely keep my eyes open.”
Pat reached for the switch on the film projector and flipped it to the off position, stopping the film. “I know you’re tired,” she said. “I’m tired. Kelley’s tired. But as the coaching staff for this team we have to do this,” her tone grew more angry as she spoke. “Otherwise, we might as well just tell Seattle we’ll be forfeiting. Is that what you want?”
“Pat, you know that isn’t what I’m saying.”
“Then stop your whining and concentrate on what we’re doing here.”
“Umm, maybe we should take a break,” Kelley said cautiously. “I think some fresh air would do us all some good.”
“Dammit,” Pat snapped. “We haven’t even started the pre-season and you two are already too tired to do your jobs,” she said disgustedly.
“Pat,” Sherry started.
“No!” the head coach barked slamming her hand down on the clipboard in her lap. “We have a responsibility to this team and I refuse to take it lightly.” She glared at her assistants. “Go ahead and take off, Sherry,” she said turning the projector back on. “Kelley and I can handle this.”
Fuming at Pat’s abrupt dismissal of her, Sherry started to reply then thought better of it. Her lover was right—all of them were tired but they did have a job to do. She reclaimed her seat, picked up her notebook, and took some calming breaths as she turned her attention away from her irate lover and back to the action on the screen in front of her.
Oh, boy, Kelley thought to herself. Going to be a long season.
To Be Continued...
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