Anthony Sunico SA 21-U
Paref Southridge is a school known to excel in academics and sports. Its football team would shine above them all, holding multiple championships in different leagues around the province. Back when I was still in high school I was part of the football team, practicing late hours in the field along with the basketball players at the court. Often or not our practices were held at the same time and during our breaks in practice I would watch the basketball team train in the court and it often got me curious how different their training was from ours. Years passed and we finally graduated, but I never got the chance to experience their practice until now.
It was Monday afternoon, Coach Ryan, the head coach of Paref Southridges’ basketball team, would hold his practices every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. With his permission, I was allowed not only to observe their practice but also to join in, as they needed more players for scrimmage. As soon as I arrived in the court, the players were at ease, sitting down at the court, doing everything they need to get ready for practice. The players welcomed me with open arms as they struck me as a familiar face; after all I was an alumni of this school. Jokes and stories were passed around, but as soon as Coach Ryan blew his whistle, the atmosphere in the court completely changed. Players were no longer laughing at each other or shooting the ball around, once the whistle blew it was time for practice.
As soon as practice began, I felt a bit nervous, as it was my first time to join a basketball practice, but at the same time excited, as I did not know what to expect. The training consisted of many different exercises, starting of with some stretching, and then a couple of shooting and running drills. There was this particular running drill that fascinated me, not from the difficulty in completing the drill but how the players reacted to it. According to Coach Ryan, the drill was called run and cut suicides, which was in a way suicides which almost everyone is familiar with, but with a slight catch. Unlike the regular suicides where one has to run back and forth a certain number of times, the run and cut suicides require the players to run back and forth until only one player is left and the last player standing is the only one to get a water break. This drill was of great difficulty and to my shock, rather than the players complaining and not treating the drill seriously, the players ran like as if their lives depended on it, without one player complaining how tired they are. During the drill Coach Ryan and his assistant coach, George would shout inspirational phrases such as “Do you want the championship boys”, and the boys would run even faster. After the exhausting drill was finished, I went to Coach Ryan and asked why doesn’t he just stick to the regular suicides. He responded by saying that this kind of suicides pushes the players more in those late game situations where they are all exhausted, and screams at them to remind them what they are working for.
After the drill, the players took a short five-minute break, without anyone drinking water asides from the winner. Practice resumed into a step-by-step practice of their plays. In Football, the outcome of the game is based on the players flow, timing and reading of the game, the only play I can remember was the one-two passing, which is the complete opposite of basketball. In basketball, the game depended on the execution of the plays and requires you to remember the play that is dependent on a given situation. This was the part of the practice that I had to sit out, in order for them not to have interruptions as I was ignorant of their plays. As I watched them practice their plays, I found myself very confused at what they were doing at first because of the number of plays they had, but soon enough I understood what they were doing. Either Coach Ryan or the point guard called the plays they wanted to execute. Hand gestures or certain words were the indicators of which play to use in a given situation. Coach Ryan had devised at least ten plays for the team, which is why he says they need to practice every training in order for them to remember.
After the practice of the plays, it was time to play scrimmage, which is the part of practice where they get to play a game of basketball. From the smiles on the players’ faces I can tell they were all excited to play including myself. I expected scrimmage to be the part of practice where players can relax and truly have fun playing the game. But as scrimmage begun the intense atmosphere stayed on the court with players treating it as a real game. During scrimmage I felt very confused, because the point guards were calling plays that I was not aware of. At the end of scrimmage, I found a certain enjoyment playing the sport and understood why the players are willing to go through all that work just to play.
My experience in basketball practice thought me that despite being high school, these teenagers showed a great degree of maturity towards the sport that are similar to that of the college level. They took every part of training as serious as the other one and followed the coach every step of the way. At the end of practice the coach told me how badly they wanted to win a championship, after years of losing to teams a lot bigger than them. Coach Ryan says that’s the reason why they train so hard, other teams may be bigger than them, but this year they certainly wont be as fit as them. It only shows that with the right amount of motivation, you not only accomplish discipline and hard work, but you may also accomplish your main goal, and to Coach Ryan and his team, that goal is a championship.
1. What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
The insights that I got from participating in the practice, rather than observing are that I was able to get a first hand experience of what basketball players go through in practice. I was also able to attain a deeper understanding not just for the sport but on the players as well, experiencing how its like to push beyond your limits in that run and cut drill and learning to keep calm and remember plays in those intense scrimmages. It also gave me a perception on the different sports, now knowing that all sports are different and difficult in their own way.
2. What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
Coach Ryan was my key informant in my experience training with the basketball team and helped a lot in my understanding of the sport. He was able to fill in details that I was unaware of, such as the differences in doing normal suicides and run and cut suicides. He also helped me identify the most crucial part in basketball, which is the execution of plays and allowed me to truly be part of that team for that day.
3. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
Questionnaires’ or interviews may give you an idea of what it’s like to play basketball, but that’s all it will ever give you. Participant observation gives you an upper hand over those questionnaires’ and interviews because it gives you an experience on what you want to learn. It also gives you a deeper insight because you are able to see what those interviewees are talking about, rather than just imagining them in an interview. It allows you to see something through others’ eyes. An example of something that an interview cannot attain is how players and coaches use hand gestures or words to signify a play. Another factor that a questionnaire or an interview might miss is the attitude of the players towards practice and the intense atmosphere brought about by the way the players act in practice.
4. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
There are some cases where an interview or a questionnaire might be better than participant observation. One case is if the person observing in the participant observation misses something. Interviews allow you to ask what you want and being able to record it for reassurance. The risk in missing something is lower in interviews. Another case is using interviews or questionnaires to be less intrusive in a particular event such as practice. The team may have an important game coming along and they wouldn’t want anyone observing and bothering them during practice. Lastly, interviews allow the interviewer to focus more on one topic rather than the whole thing. Unlike participant observation, which does not allow you to get a more detailed explanation on a specific topic, but allows you to see the broadness of it.