Category Archives: Blog

Amistad Basketball – Success is the Outcome

The Greatest reminder I have ever received about winning or losing comes from John Wooden.

He said, “That if a spectator had not seen the game and walked into the gym right as the buzzer sounded – I would hope that he would not be able to determine whether you won or lost based on your actions.”
It doesn’t matter who wins or loses, how talented players are, or how much knowledge or game strategy a coach has.
That’s the standard.
That’s the outcome.

That’s as good as it gets.

We all have growth areas in how we approach life, carry out our days, and how we think about anything of significance when it has ended. Whether painful or enjoyable – we get to learn something more important about ourselves and those that we keep around us.

That’s the outcome.

Coaches may be called mentors or even teachers. But coaches have to always be mindful that in the end, basketball will always be just a game. But being a coach of the game gives us the opportunity to be leaders of young men.
That is the outcome.

As John Wooden also stated, success is only measured by doing the best of which you are capable. And after the season ends, which it does for everyone – the season can be reduced to a few simple questions:
Am I better coach than I was before? Am I a better person than I was before? Are my players better players than they were before? Are they better people?

No matter how or when it ends – If a coach can answer “Yes” to these questions – then that’s all that matters.
That is the outcome.

On a certain level, as the head coach of Amistad, I know that some people are aware of the triumphs of our Program’s development. But I also know that only those whom were there – day in and day out – every day since its inception – truly know what we have all learned and gained from being with each other. From when it “Started from Scratch” to how we became “Team Blue.”
That is the outcome.
Alright, boys… “It’s what you do AFTER the Buzzer that counts.”

Love Team Blue.

~ Coach

Amistad Basketball – Seniors Fair Well

Well, we lost 3 out of our last 5 without two of our starters this past week, but the battle continues on into the post-season for Amistad Basketball. As a team, we finished 13-7 this season – seven more wins than last year. However, after our final win of the season on Wed. at Goodwin Tech., we all agree that we have yet to really access our full potential as a team. And that we were capable of a much better overall regular season record. Hopefully, that means that we are poised, but not satisfied; that our best basketball is still ahead of us, and that there plenty of more games to be played.
But we also agreed that we have gone through quite a bit this season as a team – from losing players from our original roster, to 1 game suspensions for players, to injuries that knocked out our leading scorer for the past 4 games, and our point guard from even before that. But no matter what the ups and downs have been – the players that have remained have come together. And I can tell that they have bonded as a team, and that they believe in themselves and each other no matter what the ups and downs have been.
A team’s record doesn’t really matter much when it comes to the postseason anyway. The regular season is over, and really shouldn’t be thought about much anymore. It’s what’s in front of you that matters, because anyone can beat anyone on any given night in high school basketball.
Every year, teams with very strong regular season records go down early. And every year, some teams that barely squeak into the tournament go far. That’s part of the excitement of the postseason and the CIAC Tournament. It’s the team that commits to playing most like a team that triumphs in the postseason.
Last year, we weren’t ready to win in the postseason.
This year, we will be.

Amistad Basketball – Con”CUSS”ed

After a 5 Game Winning Streak, the Amistad Varsity hit a rough patch this past week due to late season illnesses and Two Starters suffering concussions in back to back to games. In Friday’s loss to Stratford, Amistad was forced to play a man down, as one of the top 5 leading scorers in the area, Chris Gibbs, was dealt the flu. Nevertheless, the Amistad Squad competed fiercely from the getgo and played very aggressive, solid man to man defense. But without Chris Gibbs to start, and losing another starter by the finish – we didn’t have enough in the tank to put the ball in the basket as much as we needed to win.
I could live with the loss, though, as we always tell our players – “You can have a bad offensive night… But you can’t have a bad defensive night!’
However, there was a pretty serious issue to deal with during and after the Stratford game: the amount of contact that was allowed throughout the game led to at least 10 no calls on block/situations – where neither call was made, not a whistle was blown, and our Starting Point Guard, Meech Barfield, suffered a concussion while taking a charge.
I have played, coached, refereed, and have been around basketball my whole life. Concussions are rare. As are technical fouls on Amistad’s Head Coach. But as the game went on, players knew that blocks and charges weren’t going to be called – so the amount of contact just became exceedingly dangerous. After another egregious “No Call” – it was probably my tone, though it could have been my choice of words, that magically found a way to get the refs to somehow blow their whistles. Either way, I couldn’t witness the amount of contact that was being allowed by the Board 9 Officials without doing something to protect my players.
It was my first Technical Foul of the season, and I deserved it, but if anyone had seen the tape of the game, it would be a great example for future referees to watch how a game should NOT be called at the high school level. I even went as far as to call the Head of Board 9 officials the day after the game in order to report the issue of safety being a concern for my players. Never have I had to do that after a game.
In an unrelated, but coincidental incident, Chris Gibbs was also sidelined after suffering a concussion in our following game vs. Gilbert. So we’ll see how Amistad responds from the loss. Next Game is Friday at Morgan of Clinton, followed by our last regular season game next Wed. at Goodwin Tech.
With 2 Starters down and 2 regular season games to go, The Amistad Program is actually looking forward to closing out the regular season and getting some much needed rest prior to the State Tournament beginning in Early March.

Amistad Wolves – Grit their Teeth!

Well, the boys have stepped it up a notch in recent play. The defensive efforts have been strong, and I believe that they are seeing how much the Defensive side of the ball can create offensive opportunities in transition.
Monday’s 20 point win over formerly undefeated Goodwin Tech was a good step for the Amistad Program. Last season, Goodwin Tech bounced us out of the CIAC State tournament before going to the quarterfinals. Amistad was lead by a 30 point performance by Chris Gibbs, 22 from Darien Barfield, and 16 from his twin brother Demetrius. The team managed to combine for 19 steals throughout the game., and our guards are beginning to manage the game better and are showing more confidence in their decision making and leadership on the floor.
Wednesday, we were at home against Eli Whitney again, and prevailed 78-49. It was another good win. Chris Gibbs led all scorers again with 23, including a couple of thunderous dunks, and Darien Barield had 22 again. It was the first time that we were able to get all players on the team into a single game, and it was great to see everyone contribute.
Amistad stands at 11-4 thus far, with a trip to Stratford on Friday evening.
Game time: 7:00 PM!

Amistad Basketball – States, Here We Come!

On the road, The Amistad Wolves won a Big Game over Cromwell Tuesday night, giving us our 8th win of the season, which qualifies us for postseason play in the CIAC State Tournament. It was a terrific game on all accounts. Cromwell came into the game at 10-1 on the season, and are expected to compete for the Shoreline Conference Championship, as well as the Class M State Championship this year.
Amistad got off to a very slow start, down 10 early in the game, and down 7 at the half. However, the press took hold over time, and we were able to outscore Cromwell in the 3rd and 4th quarter. Up 5 with 3 minutes to go, our team was starting to look like the team that held that same lead a year ago in the first round of the State Tournament. Two turnovers, and a missed shot allowed Cromwell to score on back to back trips, as they hit a 3 point shot with just over a minute to play to tie the game. Chris Gibbs responded with a 3 pointer of his own to put Amistad ahead for good on the ensuing possession – with a final score of 56-54.
But the game did not end without its share of drama. While Amistad ran the clock down and Cromwell was forced to foul – A simultaneous foul call and 3 second violation call by both officials resulted in one official overruling the other and giving the ball back to Cromwell. On the ensuing possession, a defensive stop by Amistad forced a Cromwell turnover and gave Amistad back the ball. As Cromwell was forced to foul, we were up two at the free throw line, with 1.8 seconds left. After missing the free throw, a loose ball ensued, which Cromwell regained possession of – then called timeout as time ran off the clock.
The Game should have been ruled over as the timeout was granted as the buzzer sounded. Instead, the referees decided to give Cromwell back the ball, and randomly decided that they should have 1.2 seconds on the clock despite NOT having definitive knowledge that there was any time on the scoreboard. As a former referee – it was not the right call, and would have been a terrible blunder had Cromwell somehow managed to score on the ensuing inbounds. After the timeout – the full court heave was intercepted by an Amistad Player and the game officially ended for the second and final time.
Less than 24 hours later and back on the road, Amistad Followed up the Cromwell win with a 78-39 win over Eli Whitney. After a couple of early season letdowns in games, the tenacity of our team defense has seemed to re-emerge, as we hope to keep the momentum rolling into a 3 game week next week. Monday we play one of the only remaining unbeaten teams in the state, Goodwin Tech, at home. But as guaranteed by their coach, once we made states – it was time to take a step back and enjoy our accomplishments as a team thus far…
Pizza for Everyone after Thursday’s Practice!

Amistad Basketball – Your Rent is Due!

I have heard that success is NOT owned.  It is LEASED.  And the rent is due EVERY DAY!

We all love to win.  We practice and prepare to win.  We compete to win.
Make no mistake, however – It’s not about winning or losing. After going winless in our first season – I know that it is the losses that teach you more about the game, and what you need to improve upon rather than the wins.
Losing teaches you more about yourself, your coaching staff, and your team more than winning does.  A lot of mistakes can be overlooked when you win.   But not when you lose. Winning doesn’t always tell you who you are when faced with adversity. Losing forces you to stare adversity in the face, and find answers to what you must do differently next time.
Win or lose – the outcome of a game cannot sustain you into the next day.  That’s the great thing about coaching a team throughout the course of an entire season.  Every day is a new day as long as you go into that day with conscious reminders of what you need to continue to do well, and what you need to improve upon.  Good coaches and good teams know that it isHOW you win or lose that determines your progress and potential as a developing team.
But after two deflating losses last week, I had seen enough…
It was time for The Amistad Basketball Program to “Put the Balls Away.”  The Players know what I mean when it is time “To Put the Balls Away.”  It means basketball practice without basketballs!
The message gets received pretty quickly:  We’re either going to play basketball the right way with intensity on the defensive end.  Or we are not going to play basketball.  Because Great Teams do NOT take defensive possessions off.  For one reason or another – the complacency that took place within our program throughout the two losses was fraught with defensive lapses due to a lack of intensity and immediacy.
Even more than that – it means it’s time to get back to work – Conditioning, Conditioning, Conditioning!
Because if players look and act tired in games – all that means to their coach is that they need to better conditioned to last longer.  After two fairly deflating losses in a row – the Amistad Team got back on track with a Solid Win over Hal Ray on Wed. Night.
Although winning in December and January is always nice.  It’s the rent that you pay now every day that allows you to profit in March!
Back to back games next week.
West Haven Next Tuesday.  North Branford Wed.
Back to work today…
Rent is due!

Amistad Basketball – Week 4 – 4 Straight Wins and a Whole lot of Complacency

After winning one of our Christmas Tournaments, and riding a wave of 4 straight wins amidst having a decent record of 5 and 1, the loss to East Haven in the Championship Game on Wednesday night was a clear indication of how much our team really needs to play with more emotional intensity throughout the course of an entire game.

After using all 5 timeouts to address in game strategy, as well as to wake a few players up – Probably the worst thing that a Coach can watch his team do is beat itself.  As a coaching staff – that’s what we witnessed on Wednesday.  Much of it due to a lack of intensity throughout the course of the game by a few of our starters.  Sure, we scrapped back with 4 minutes to go and it was a 2 point game with under a minute to play, and the crowd was excited, and there were several steals, and loose balls, and we made a few shots… But in the end… I was glad that we lost.

I couldn’t take winning another game while witnessing some of our players go through the motions and violate our defensive rules or hustle principles – all the while thinking that it’s ok because we are winning.  It was about as disappointed as I have been with the team in the 3 years that I have been the Head Coach at Amistad.  Simply because 2 years ago – I watched this same group of Sophomores that were undersized, under-manned, and under-skilled get pounded game after game. When we were losing every game a few years back – we fought for every single loose ball, and nobody every beat us up and down the floor.  That is all we stressed as a coaching staff in games.  Hustle. Hustle. Hustle!  Toughness. Toughness. Toughness! That is the foundation of what we have built our program on.

As our team became more skilled, we started to implement a more complex offense and defense in order to compete against and win against more talented teams. Now as Seniors – with some talent, experience, speed, skill and size – our players have gotten away from what has gotten them this far…  Grit!

A team that doesn’t play their hearts out from the beginning to end of the game doesn’t deserve to win.  And basketball is one of those team sports where if any one guy doesn’t play their hardest at all times – the other 4 are at a tremendous disadvantage.  And sooner or later – that disadvantage will be exploited, as one of my former mentors used to say “Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard.”

The good News is we get to start all over again and go back to work with what I am sure will be a renewed desire from the players to practice harder, and to play more together as we move forward.  It was a good lesson for us all, though – with how just a little bit of success (4 straight wins) came a whole lot of complacency.

Looking forward to week 5 of the season.

Coach Walton

Amistad Basketball – Week 3 – 1st Home Game in 2 Years!

Believe it or not – I’d be concerned with my team if we were playing really well in the first few weeks of the season.  Rarely does a team play well out of the gates, and not have something alter their course throughout the tail end of the season.  I would rather see our team look bad now, continue to improve, and peak at the right time.

After winning our first game at Griswold, we responded with one of our captains missing the team bus and being benched for the entire game against Maloney.  It was a great opportunity for our team to see who else would step up.  Nobody did – and we lost bad – as Maloney looked like the more seasoned, experienced team on the floor.
But it was good for us all to experience the letdown, and to keep in perspective that our progress as a unit takes precedence over relying on any individual player.  We also believe that a commitment to our principles is more important than winning – as our principles and standards will sustain us through the good times and the tough times.
After the loss to Maloney, we practiced hard on Sunday for 3 hours knowing that we were going to have 3 games in 4 days – beginning the very next day.  We beat O’Brien Tech by 17 on Monday, who was a much improved team from last year. Disappointingly, we were beat off of dribble penetration repeatedly throughout the game as a result of unacceptable guard play on the defensive end.  The win in O’Brien Tech game slotted us for the championship game of that tournament on Thursday at 7:00 PM.
Tuesday, we played Westbrook – which was our first home game in two years.  Last year – we opted to play every game against any and all takers on the road in order to get more games on the schedule and to prepare ourselves for the state tournament.  This year, we got a 20 game schedule and were able to schedule a few home games.
 However, we do not have a gym at Amistad High School.  So we play our home games at Columbus Family Day School on Grand Ave and Blatchley.  It actually felt really weird to play a home game in the same gym where we practice.  And I think that it felt good for the players to play in front of a home crowd. Watching our player’s take the floor to pre-game music, our Captains reading a sportsmanship announcement, and being introduced with a National Anthem really meant a lot to me as the head coach – as I have seen our kids have to walk or take the City Bus back and forth to practice for the past two years – in order to be committed to building our Basketball Program. Now that’s Commitment!
We played well as a team early on the defensive side, and shared the basketball – which got us out to an early lead that we kept – beating Westbrook 70-37.  One of the best things that happened in the night was the sportsmanship within the game that carried over after the game.  Both teams played very hard – it just happened to be our night on the offensive end.  I was most impressed with the Westbrook Boys’ Program and how they actually helped us pick up and stack chairs after the game. What a great example of class from a class program.
Though we’re 3 and 1 right now, the record isn’t as important to me as my player’s grasping and executing our defensive principles possession after possession.  We’ll see how we do again this Thursday.
Then it’s 3 days off for Christmas immediately Followed by the East Haven Holiday Tournament on Monday.
 Amistad Play Hale Ray in the First Round at 5:00 PM at East Haven High School.

Amistad Basketball – Week 2 – Defense First, Multi-Vitamin Second!

Great teams communicate constantly on the Defensive side of the ball.

That is why as a coaching staff, we have striven every day to improve upon our players’ defensive callouts and communication.  In this respect, our defensive team play has improved as we have honed in on our Defensive Principles with respect to Man to Man.  As a result, our 2nd week of the season went a little better than the first with or scrimmages, too.  We played much better on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball in our 3 way scrimmage with Oxford and East Windsor on Saturday Night.
We have added quite a few new callouts and responsibilities this season, and the players are adjusting slowly to the demands of incessant communication on the Defensive End.  But in order for us to be successful on the both ends of the floor it is absolutely essential to verbally communicate on the Defensive End.
We have also been struggling with the early season flu bug, as a few of the players have been under the weather.  Each player in my program is instructed to balance exertion and rest, drink 96 ounces of water each day, get to bed by 10:30 PM, and take a multi-vitamin before bed each night.
 I am sure several of them are not adhering to this advice, and are paying the price for it as we get into the early grind of the season.  Similar to when a team offense or defense breaks down on the court, it’s too easy for an entire team to get sick when one player gets a cold or doesn’t take of their body during season.
With a 20 game season this year (15 of which are on the road), and with less recovery/practice time between games – we’re going to need to be on the ball each and every day.
First Game is Thursday at Griswold.
Saturday at Maloney.
We’ll see what happens.

Amistad Basketball – Week 1

Well, we struck new Ground at Amistad this past week with the commencement of our first freshman team.   This is a huge development for the Amistad Basketball Program, as any high school head coach knows that the development of the sub-varsity teams within your program is the only way that a high school sports program can have success year in and year out. That is – unless you recruit other programs’ players like many schools in New Haven do.

I’d prefer to develop players, as I believe that that is the true calibrator of success for any high school head coach.  I believe that it is not what you got – but rather what you get out of what you got.  And more importantly, my priority as a head coach in service to my players is to prepare them for the next 4 years of their lives AFTER high school basketball is over– not just for the upcoming season.  This is part of the reason that we mandate a 90 minute study hall after school for all basketball players at Amistad.
This being our 3rd year of existence as a high school Varsity Program with CIAC affiliation, I am proud to say that each of our seniors is on pace to graduate, all will be attending college, and 6 of our players are being actively recruited to play college basketball at various levels.  It also goes without saying that from going winless in our inaugural season to now, I am very proud of the development of Amistad’s Basketball Program as we enter our 3rd season together.
However, we’ve had to deal with quite a few challenges due to the advent of the Freshman Program this season.  Due to the fact that there is no gym at Amistad High School, our players have to take the same bus to get dropped off at two different gym locations after school in order to practice every day.
Unfortunately, the gym times are the same for both the Varsity and Freshman Teams, so I won’t get the chance to see the Freshman Practice all season.  But we decided as a program that rather than leave them to go off on their own, the Varsity Team would spend the first week of the pre-season practicing with the Freshmen in order to teach them the drills and the skills that we work on day to day at the Varsity Level.
This meant compromising the scrimmage and game readiness of the Varsity team in the first few weeks, but after seeing all the kids in one gym, and the Varsity leading the Freshman through the drills and teaching the Freshmen what the expectations for players in our program are – there is no doubt that it did not set us back one bit as a Basketball Program.  What we sacrificed in x’ and o’s and team offense and team defense – we made up for in with teamwork and program unity.
With “Team Communication” being a vital aspect to our programs core development this season – the coaches agreed to remain silent throughout a 15 minute segment of practice while we gave one of our Varsity Captains a whistle and let him teach the 11 Man Break to the Freshman Team while we all practiced together.  That alone was very rewarding to watch and be a part of.
Our first Varsity scrimmage was against Branford on Saturday. As one of the most disciplined teams year in and year out in the SCC, they looked good.  We had a few good moments here and there.  But there is much work to do.  Every night after the first week of practice, I have to remind myself of one thing: The Season is a Marathon.  And the Goal is to peak in March!
Next Game: AMISTAD at Cheshire Academy Wed., 12/7 at Cheshire Academy, 6:00 PM
Should be fun!