Spending three hours coaching basketball on a Thursday night may not seem like a dream for some, but Coach Amber wouldn’t want it any other way.
Amber caught the coaching bug early, helping her dad coach AAU teams while she attended college. Now a first-grade teacher at Moran Prairie Elementary, Amber continues her passion as she coaches a team of 7th grade boys and 4th grade girls in YMCA basketball leagues.
For the coach, it’s not enough to just teach the fundamentals and how to be a good basketball player, Amber insists it’s much more important to be a better person. That’s been the focus of her teams throughout the years, teaching the value of sportsmanship and seeing how that work can affect a player on and off the court.
“Honestly, I’d much rather lose if that means that everyone plays, because the kids aren’t going to learn anything sitting on the bench and winning,” Amber said. “Even if not every person scores, they need to know that every player is just as important as the next. They all bring something to the team.”
After every game Coach Amber’s teams will decide on a Player of the Game on the opposing team. This player is selected by Amber’s team based on the teamwork, effort and sportsmanship they displayed during the game. Sometimes it’s a player that may not have scored, or one playing with a respectful manner throughout the game. Whatever the reason, identifying those players has an infections nature on the opposing team the next time they face off.
“Every time we play the team a second time, players will go out of their way to be kind and respectful,” Amber said. “Are they doing it just to get the award? Maybe, but the result is the same. The game becomes less toxic and everyone enjoys it more regardless of the score.”
Amber believes that players who feel confident and valued play better, no matter the skill level. “When they go out there and know that the team has their back, that I have their back, they feel empowered. They take more risks and trust themselves more.”
Coaches play a significant role in the culture and personality of a team, and Amber is very aware of the affect she has on her players. “Sometimes in games you can see kids crying or have their heads down when they’re upset and things aren’t going their way, and then you can hear a coach in their ear harping on them. In my experience that’s not going to be beneficial. I want my kids to walk out of the gym with their heads held high, knowing what they brought to our team that day was significant, no matter what the scoreboard said. They have to know their value to the team.”
Recently Amber has developed a partnership with Catch Spokane, a local group dedicated to building the skills of athletes throughout the Spokane community. They have assisted Amber in basketball coaching skills and they help kids find teams that fit them well. “They have been a great partner. We all have a common goal in the kids. We love the game and want to help players get better in a positive and supportive way, they’re all about that,” Amber said.
Through the years a few players will come and go from the team, a process Amber knows is bound to happen. She just wants to be sure that wherever they go, they walk away with a love of the game and to be a better person than when they joined her squad.
“At the end of the day, we’re not just coaching kids on a team, we’re building humans. These kids will grow up and I want them to be able to handle adversity well, because tough times will come. Either here on the court or in life, there will be hard times, but it’s important to know how to deal with it and come out better on the other side.”