Nav Parmar can’t take three steps in the busy gymnasium without someone approaching him for a handshake, a high-five, or a short chat. As he moves along the side of the court, a woman approaches him and thanks him for his hard work. Then, not five seconds later, a volunteer rushes over to ask where to put the gift bags. Continuing along the side wall of the gym, he says hello to a group of young basketball players, greeting each one of them by name.
Each time, he has to bend his six-foot-five frame downwards so he can hear whoever he is speaking to. The air is warm, and the energy is electric that day. The sound of basketballs being dribbled over and over on the wooden floor, the cheering of the crowd, the squeaking of the latest and greatest shoes stopping and starting, jumping and diving on the hardcourt. Nav, being Nav, has set up a DJ table near one of the courts, and the speakers are filling the gym with Migos, Drake, and Future. The clean versions, of course.
Nav Parmar walks with a rhythm, his long limbs swaying, and his head bobbing. You might think his head is moving to the beat of the song being played over the speakers, but those who know him know he walks like that all the time. He has a sense of pride on this day. All the hard work is worth it. It’s all for a great cause, he tells himself. Long after the gym is cleaned and the lights go out, he and his committee will tally up the money and present a cheque to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Every court is full. Six hoops, each serving as a battleground. There are boys and girls, junior and senior, testing themselves and one another. It’s the second annual PG Summer Hoops Classic, and if you play basketball in Prince George, this is the place to be. As Nav heads over to yet another impressed parent waiting to commend him on the event, his eyes scan the busy gym. He built this. It’s twice as big as last year, and that means more funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Plus, more kids playing the game he loves so much. His heart is full.
His heart is full, but it’s also working overtime. Dangerously so; but, that day, he’s the only one who knows it.
“I didn’t grow until Grade 12, so I wasn’t raised a post player,” he laughs, his long legs splayed across half the room. “I was all about the fundamentals, all about footwork. Looking back, I was probably a bit of a boring player to watch.”
Nav Parmar’s evaluation of his high school abilities is modest, but that seems fitting, if you know him. He played his high school basketball for DP Todd Secondary School, one of the smaller programs in Prince George. The Trojans, clad in red and blue, would often come up short, having to battle the bigger schools like Duchess Park, Prince George Secondary, and College Heights.
Outside of the high school competition, there wasn’t much for young basketball players. Prince George was a hockey town, and proud of it. Opportunities were scarce, and Parmar recognized it, even as a teenager.
“There wasn’t anything. In the offseason, everyone would play pickup ball, just meeting at the YMCA. The Northern Sport Centre didn’t exist at the time, and there certainly wasn’t much organized, community wise.”
College coaches didn’t call. Nor should they have, according to Parmar, who is nothing short of realistic about his on-court abilities. But, somewhere along the line, the game got in his blood.
“I was always decently good. Not highly skilled, but I remember always wanting to get better. Even as a kid, playing minor basketball or in the elementary league. I knew I wanted to teach the game, and teach the next generation. I was fortunate that I knew basketball was going to be a part of my life. I could feel it in my heart.”
It’s November 14th, 2014 and the University of Fraser Valley Cascades are in Prince George to take on UNBC Timberwolves at the TWolves’ Canada West home opener. Nav Parmar is nervous. He has climbed the proverbial coaching ladder far more quickly than he had anticipated, and found himself sitting on the UNBC bench, two seats down from head coach Todd Jordan.
Three years prior, he had taken on the job of assistant coach with his DP Todd Trojans, followed by two successful years as head coach of the PGSS Polars. In February of 2014, his Polars rode Grade 10 scoring sensation Tyrell Laing all the way to the City Finals, before they fell to the Trojans in front of a capacity crowd at the Northern Sport Centre.
Nine months later, the location is the same, but the stakes feel much higher. As the bench boss for the Polars, the 25-year-old had committed fully to giving his players, and himself, the best basketball education they could get. Jordan had extended an open invitation to observe Timberwolves practice whenever he had wanted, though he didn’t know Parmar would show up every week.
“I would bring a pad of paper and write down everything I saw. Offensive sets, I would draw out diagrams. Defensive sets, I would write them down, too. And motivational tools; I would listen to how Todd prepared his guys or inspired a player. Then, I would return to our PGSS practice and use it. Plus, I would invite Todd to come guest coach at our runs, which was incredible. The bond grew, and he became my older brother.”
Despite Parmar’s relative inexperience, Jordan felt confident bringing him aboard. Through training camp, he had already exceeded Jordan’s expectations with his willingness to do the little things for the TWolves players.
“Nav has this incredible positive energy and ability to connect to people. He had such a passion for the game, and furthering his involvement at a higher level,” said Jordan. “I wanted to provide him an opportunity, knowing he would bring a lot of positives to our team. He connects with our players in a way that supports them and encourages them through the ups and downs.”
On this Friday night, Parmar looks the part. He is wearing a dark suit over a dark dress shirt, both of which hang loose on his long, lean frame. 1600 fans have filed into the NSC bleachers for the game, and the pregame hum feels different to him, considering three years prior, he wasn’t even coaching at the high school level. But, the beating of his heart under his baggy blazer tells him everything he needs to know; he is in exactly the right place.
The plans were in place. It certainly wasn’t easy, but they were in place. Sponsors had been secured, teams were registered, and the location had been booked. The PG Summer Hoops Classic was set for June 20th, 2015 at Kelly Road Secondary. Parmar had been calling it the “1st Annual,” with the confidence that this event would become a yearly mainstay in town, and history would prove him right.
The KRSS gym wasn’t exactly the biggest or best spot in town. The lights had turned a yellow hue, and the floor and walls looked dated. Well enjoyed, but dated. For Parmar and his team, it was perfect for year one.
He envisioned a battle for city supremacy, using a three-on-three format, with the best young athletes in Prince George going head to head. Two divisions, separated into Seniors Boys and Junior Boys, with a total of 14 teams registered, playing for trophies, duffel bags, and bragging rights.
Just two months from the event, one thing was missing. Parmar wanted the event to be bigger than basketball, but he needed to find the right cause. But, as it so often happens, that cause comes and punches you right in the gut.
On April 24th, he found the cause. He found it in a way he still wishes he hadn’t. Parmar’s uncle, friend, and champion, Surinder Mann suffered a massive stroke and died.
“Who I am as a person, outside of my parents, is directly because of what he taught me growing up. So many life lessons. It was one of the worst days of my life. My uncle was all about valuing others and putting others before yourself,” said Parmar, his voice shaking. “He was so incredibly community-driven, putting on charity events for others.”
Parmar considered calling off the tournament. We can do it next year, he thought. But the last thing Mann ever said to him was ringing in his ears.
“He knew how passionate I was about basketball. In our culture, it can be hard to pursue your passions. But he was so supportive. He told me to chase my dream, be as ambitious as possible, and take on a challenge. I knew the tournament needed to go on, and I knew the money needed to go to the Heart & Stroke Foundation.”
Two months later, the 1st Annual PG Summer Hoops Classic went off without a hitch. After it was all said and done, Parmar and his committee were able to present a cheque for seven thousand dollars to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, raising the profile of the game while honouring Surinder Mann.
“It is humbling to present a cheque of that magnitude to a charity near and dear to my heart,” Parmar told the media. “You know it will make a difference, and the goal is to save lives. They need this money, and we are not looking to stop here.”
His words were fitting that day. The Heart & Stroke Foundation is near and dear to so many people. What he didn’t know was just how near to his own heart it soon would be.
His role in the drill was quite simple. He was supposed to stand at halfcourt, arms extended, jumping up and down, forcing players to throw overhead passes in transition. The Timberwolves had struggled with it over the weekend, and Coach Jordan had seen enough to make it a focus in practice. Nav Parmar and fellow UNBC assistant coach Aaron Brouwer were tasked with simulating the defense, requiring them to jump over and over.
The issue was landing. Every time his size 14 shoes returned to the Northern Sport Centre court, Parmar felt funny. Something wasn’t right. He felt more and more light-headed with every bounce, and less and less able to jump again. Unwilling to let anyone observe his distress, he continued with the drill, asking himself if he was dehydrated or tired.
One week later, while working at his job at an elementary school as a youth care worker, Parmar collapsed. Like a building imploding on itself, his massive frame crumbled underneath him.
Had he been more open and honest, with others and with himself, he would have taken his light-headedness and discomfort more seriously at practice the week prior. Scraping himself off the floor of his small office that day, Parmar decided the two-time event was a one-time thing.
The following week, practice wrapped up and Parmar went through his usual post-training duties. He was the last one left in the hallway nearest to the team’s dressing room when he dropped to his knees. In that moment, slumped against the cool bricks of the Northern Sport Centre, he knew he couldn’t pass this off as dehydration or fatigue.
That cold January night, Parmar’s father, Sarabjit, took him to the hospital. The medical staff at University Hospital of Northern British Columbia took one look at him and rushed him for evaluation. An electrocardiogram, a test that detects abnormalities of the heart, was used to determine that Parmar’s symptoms were not the result of a lack of water or sleep. He was suffering from cardiac arrythmia.
“My heart was beating too fast, which meant the muscles in my heart were working too hard. Because of that, they were tired and weak, which meant my brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen.”
He was used to gliding into a room and being met with smiles and handshakes. To the students at Southridge Elementary, Mr. Parmar was as close as it got to a superhero. But that night, hooked up to wires and machines that beeped and buzzed for reasons unknown to him, he felt as mortal as he ever had.
When Parmar was released from UHNBC the next morning, he had two prescriptions. One was for amiodarone, a medication used to treat irregular heartbeats by slowing the nerve activity and relaxing the heart. The other prescription was the one that created a lump in his throat as he walked out the hospital doors. No physical activity or involvement in activities that would cause the heart to have to work beyond a regular day-to-day expectation. While it was not explicitly said, Parmar knew his involvement in coaching the Timberwolves was about to change.
He just wasn’t going to tell anyone at UNBC.
He could feel the pins and needles in his long, thin hands a little more than usual.
There is a game, played mostly by kids, that requires the participants to jump out of the comforts of a hot tub on a winter’s day and roll around in the snow. The game has no name, other than “roll around in the snow and then jump back into the tub.” It didn’t inflict pain in a traditional sense, like a twisted ankle or a wonky knee. It was a unique sensation. That’s how Parmar’s hands felt that day.
It was gameday, though, which is the payoff after a long week of practice and scouting. At morning shoot, he had strategically spent time sitting and chatting with players on the benches lining the court. He helped rebound for shooting guard Saje Gosal on a shooting drill, corralling rebounds and doing his best to fling passes out to Gosal for another shot attempt. But then, he would return to the bench to discuss that evening’s opponent, or why he believed Kobe Bryant was the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all time.
To the unknowing, it was a regular day at morning shoot for an assistant coach at the Canada West level. But, for Parmar, these actions were deliberate acts of preservation. Preservation of his secret. Preservation of his role on the team. Preservation of his sense of identity and purpose. It had been a year since his cardiac arrythmia diagnosis, and his heart had been responding well to the medication. But still, he needed to preserve.
“Mentally, it was a draining experience. Hiding it from the team and hiding it from the other coaches. There would be days I would be at the hospital for tests, and then have to go straight from the hospital to practice. I would have to compartmentalize it all the best way I could, especially when my symptoms were picking up.”
That night, he did enough to keep his secret. Like he had the entire year prior, he concentrated on his own breathing, while simultaneously barking out a defensive order to one of the Timberwolves. When the game was close and TWolves coach Todd Jordan called a timeout, Parmar pulled a couple freshmen aside to provide leadership and perspective. Of course, it also served as a welcome distraction for him, because he knew the intensity of the huddle would be a lot for him that day.
He was exactly where he wanted to be. He was around the game he loved with his entire, inconsistent heart.
His heart had responded well to the amiodarone, and the third PG Summer Hoops Classic was the biggest success yet.
More basketball players. More energy. More music. More in the famous swag bags. More young people loving the game he held so closely. And, most importantly, more money raised for the Heart & Stroke Foundation.
Nav Parmar had become a household name in Northern BC, but he wasn’t done. It was November 24th, 2017, and the Prince George autumn had given way to an early winter. But, in the gym of Duchess Park Secondary, you would be hard pressed to find anything but a smile. Parmar had organized the School District 57 Hoops Classic, inviting elementary school students from the at-risk areas in the city for a fun day of basketball and camaraderie.
Most had never played an organized sport. An even greater majority had never had a complete stranger plan something specifically for them. But they had never met Coach Nav.
The participants were decked out in UNBC colours; a special touch made possible by Parmar himself. He was especially proud that day, especially when one of the kids would high-five him, or better yet, thank him. Lyn Hall, Mayor of Prince George, was in attendance for the event’s opening ceremony. Fittingly, he made it a point to commend Parmar’s heart that day. Everyone in attendance nodded in agreement, while the humble organizer smiled and stared at the tops of his own shoes.
The Timberwolves had let a 12-point lead slip away in just four minutes. It was January 6th, 2018, and their record sat at 4-8 on the season. The hopes of qualifying for the Canada West playoffs rested heavily in the balance. They would need a stellar second half of the season, and a win on the first night of the 2018 calendar would set the tone for the rest of the season.
Up a dozen points with four minutes remaining, the TWolves surrendered a 15-4 run by the UBCO Heat, and found themselves up 82-81 with 23 seconds left on the Northern Sport Centre clock.
To the relief of everyone in attendance, clutch free throws from Marcus MacKay and Anthony Hokanson were enough to seal the victory for the home team, and the exhausted Timberwolves retreated to the locker room to recover. Todd Jordan addressed the team quickly, before leaving to begin breaking down game tape, while Parmar stuck around to enjoy the victory with the players.
The celebration was short-lived. Parmar crashed to the floor.
When a six-foot-five man loses consciousness and falls to the concrete ground beneath him, it is not quiet nor graceful. As acoustic as it may seem, with each limb taking its turn rattling off the hard surfaces that do little to soften the rapid descent, it is the silence that immediately follows that is so often deafening. Five seconds prior to Parmar’s collapse, the feeling around the Timberwolves locker room was that they had just experienced the turning point of the season. The five seconds after the fall, it was clear that they had just experienced the turning point of the season, after the turning point of the season.
“Everyone was immediately scared. You don’t often see someone collapse right in front of you,” said UNBC veteran guard Vova Pluzhnikov. “You could still feel the buzz and energy after our game, but our focus switched right to Nav. Every single soul in that team room wanted to give our coach…our friend, a hand.”
Feeling embarrassed, disoriented, and very much a distraction, Parmar scraped himself to his feet, using the locker next to him for support.
“His initial thought was he didn’t want to make a scene,” said guard Saje Gosal, who had rushed to his coach’s aid. “He was trying to show strength in a dark moment for himself, and he didn’t want to worry any of the guys. He assured me he just needed a moment to regain his composure, and then he walked out of the locker room on his own steam.”
Parmar was rushed to the hospital for a reunion neither party had much interest in attending. Tests revealed his condition had worsened, and indicated an area in his heart was producing dead cells. Dr. Jason Andrade, a leading cardiologist from Vancouver General Hospital didn’t like what he was seeing and suggested a rapid move towards a cardiac ablation; a procedure that intentionally scars tissue in the heart to block abnormal signals and activity.
Twelve hours prior, Parmar had been preparing for a must-win game with the team he held so close to his heart. Now, as he stared at the fluorescent lights that flickered and hummed above him, he was facing a new reality. Some days his arms tingled so badly that he couldn’t hold onto a basketball. Other days, his entire body had tingled with every single step he took. He had convinced himself those moments, and the associated fears, were part of the hand he was dealt. But he was not willing to fold. The team needed him.
Now, he needed the team.
Just feet from where Parmar had collapsed after the UBCO game, he stood in front of the team. A week had gone by, but the visual was stamped in the memory of those who witnessed it. His legs were shaking under his baggy sweats, and he used his Timberwolves practice gear to dry his palms. But he wasn’t alone.
Parmar shared with the team the details of his medical situation. Standing with him were Saje Gosal, Austin Chandler, and Vova Pluzhnikov. He had told them about his condition, and they had vowed to join him on upcoming hospital visits. The cardiology department at UHNBC was forcing Parmar to take the rest of the season off, as he prepared for the cardiac ablation procedure. No involvement in practice. No sitting on the bench at games. No traveling. No basketball.
“I couldn’t help but hurt for him,” said Chandler. “The worst part was, he thought he was letting us down. Nav was always bringing the best out of us, even on our hardest days. This was one of his hardest days, and we needed him to take care of himself.”
He also had to meet with UNBC Athletic Director Loralyn Murdoch, but again, he wasn’t alone. Coach Jordan sat at his side, and vowed to make Parmar feel as included as possible. He had earned that, and its exactly what the players wanted.
Over the next two months, the Timberwolves surged. As promised, players accompanied Parmar to near-daily hospital appointments, keeping him company while he underwent monitoring and testing. Murdoch and Jordan text him on a daily basis. The TWolves rallied around their heart and soul, going 6-2 down the stretch to qualify for the conference playoffs for just the second time in program history.
“The support from the players meant everything. The love and the care everyone showed was what meant most to me. I truly think about it every day. That is how special the group is and the culture is here. It goes beyond basketball, and in a way, it saved my life. I will be eternally grateful.”
On February 8th, Parmar had plans. The Timberwolves were in Winnipeg, without him, for a Canada West playoff clash with the Wesmen. Nothing else mattered to him that day. He would settle in and stream the matchup on Canada West TV, with the loose promise to not get overly excited one way or another.
The text stream had been steady. Pluzhnikov, Gosal, Hokanson, Chandler, James Agyeman, Marcus MacKay, Tyrell Laing, and Jovan Leamy all were texting him. This game was for him. UNBC had never won a playoff game at the U SPORTS level. Ever. But this time, they were playing for Coach Nav.
When Winnipeg Sean Tarver’s three-point heave at the buzzer rimmed out at the Wesmen’s Duckworth Centre, the loose promise Parmar made to his physician was strongly broken. The TWolves had made program history with a 71-68 playoff win.
Parmar’s cellphone began lighting up with texts. The players, celebrating their victory tucked in a dark visitors’ dressing room three provinces from home, were all messaging their assistant coach.
There are few things as frustratingly difficult as trying to force a large cardboard box into the correct bin at the dump. You may try to force it diagonally, but only get it partway through the allocated window that taunts you with its short and short-sighted dimensions. You regroup, mentally mostly, and try to bend it in half, like a hot dog; that works better until a random flap flops out, stymying your attempt. Maybe it’s a flop that flaps out. Either way, a thin slice of cardboard is enough to reject even the most willing and able dumpster-stuffers. Eventually you settle on open-handed shoving, and back away slowly when it looks like you’ve succeeded.
It’s a bit like that when a six-foot-five man with a seven-foot wingspan is asked to fit on a hospital stretcher.
Nav Parmar laid on his back, watching the lights pass over him on the way to the Vancouver General Hospital operating room. It had been determined part of his heart was producing dead cells, and those cells would need to be eliminated in hopes of the heart resuming regular function. The doctors would travel up an artery from his thigh, locate the area of the heart producing dead cells, and burn them in a full cardiac ablation. The entire procedure was slated for an hour, and Parmar was optimistic it would lead to a full recovery.
But one hour led to two hours, and then three, and four.
Dr. Jason Andrade initially struggled to find the area of the heart that was creating the issue, and when he eventually located the problem, he didn’t love what he discovered.
Within the heart, there is an infrastructure of wiring and message-senders that rely on a two-way system for successful function. The impulses that travel through those wires are responsible for the beating of the heart, and ultimately are crucial to proper use. When Dr. Andrade identified the area of the heart that was causing Parmar issues, he discovered it was far too close to that wiring.
Andrade, like a basketball coach faced with a defensive scheme he didn’t anticipate, was forced to call a new gameplan on the fly. If they proceeded with a full ablation, they risked burning through the wires, risking a cardiac arrest or subjecting Parmar to a pacemaker for the rest of his days. The medical team pivoted to a cryogenic ablation; choosing to freeze the problem area rather than burn it. The results of the new procedure wouldn’t be permanent like the original plan, but it was far less risky to Parmar on the operating table.
Despite taking four times as long as planned, the procedure was considered a success. Parmar learned of the pivot when he regained consciousness, including the reality that the cryogenic ablation was not permanent. In fact, once an area had been frozen in a procedure of that nature, they couldn’t be frozen again.
He groggily nodded, smiled, and nodded some more. He had to get back to planning the 4th Annual PG Summer Hoops Classic.
Things look different at the Timberwolves Basketball 2021 Spring Break camp. Usually, the camp is hours of fun and fundamentals, offensive and defensive drills, and scrimmages, but due to COVID restrictions, every young player is spaced out and the focus is on individual skill development. Games are harder to execute, of course, but the campers seem to be enjoying the chance to be instructed by UNBC athletes and coaches.
Nav Parmar can’t stop smiling. It’s basketball, after all.
COVID-19 had led to the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 PG Summer Hoops Classics. The School District 57 Hoops Classic – an annual event Parmar had created for inner-city youth to experience the game he loved – had also been scratched in back-to-back years. His trips to elementary schools, where he would bring along UNBC TWolf athletes for hours of impactful mentorship and coaching, had also been lost. Plus, the Canada West season had been negated due to the virus.
But the dozens of youth in the Northern Sport Centre that week were a symbol of a light at the end of the tunnel. Best of all, as he strolls up the baseline, barking out encouragement to each child by name, he feels great.
Parmar’s cryogenic ablation had expired during the pandemic, meaning the area of his heart that had rocked his world had thawed. If he were to be confronted with persisting complications, another freezing of cells was not possible; instead, a full ablation would be the only option. Every two months, Parmar is hooked up to a holter monitor for a full 24-hour analysis of his heart rate. The medical professionals look for abnormalities and attempt to correlate the discrepancies with what he may be doing at that particular time. On this afternoon, the monitor will likely read “full.”
“I do have moments when I worry, but for the most part, I just remain positive,” said Parmar. “Sometimes at night, I think, “will my heart fail while I’m sleeping?” But I have trained myself to stay positive and understand that stressing about it only intensifies the condition. Life is way too short to stress about things beyond your control. That is how I view life. Every day. Sometimes, I need a reminder. But that’s my goal, every day.”
As preparation intensifies for the upcoming Canada West season, he will enter year eight on the Timberwolves bench. After taking time away from the team, Parmar has again established himself as an incredible member of the program.
“Nav’s greatest value is his unwavering positive energy he brings to motivating our guys” remarks Todd Jordan. “He consciously makes an effort to be there to talk to guys who may be down or having a tough stretch. He is definitely the coach that the guys feel they can go to for support off the court. He is constantly building relationships with the players, and across our team Nav has built a lot of trust.”
In the NSC gym that day, a number of the campers don a PG Summer Hoops Classic jersey, from the 2019 edition that seems a distant memory. Parmar and his team are already preparing for the annual tradition to return and build on the $68,000 already raised and donated to the Heart & Stroke Foundation. If the 2020 and 2021 tournaments had happened, the total would have already eclipsed $100,000, but that mark seems to be a reality in a matter of time.
“It hit closer to home, that’s for sure. I see the amount of work that goes into helping patients with heart issues. When we can donate, I know the impact it’s making. The technology, the equipment, to help people like myself.”
Coach Todd Jordan calls for the players at the Spring Break camp to assume a position along the baseline, and goes over the basics of a power dribble, keeping in mind the height and speed each time their ball leaves their hand and rebounds off the hardcourt.
Thuh-thump. Thuh-thump. Thuh-thump.
The young campers are finding their rhythm with the dribbling technique, their confidence surging with each sequence. Their collective tempo fills the gymnasium with a percussive pounding and cadence that may as well be Mozart to those who love the game.
One young basketball player, with a frame he hasn’t yet grown into, but bright eyes and a focused expression indicating his intent on mastering the technique, is dribbling to the beat of his own drummer.
Thump-ump-ump. Thump-ump-ump. Thump-ump-ump.
He is dribbling way too quickly, and risks losing complete control of the ball because of it. Because his ballhandling sounds and looks different than the rest of the campers, it’s easy to locate him in the busy, noisy gym. But his tempo seems to suit him. He has a smile on his face and a determination that suggests the speed is something he is used to.
Thump-ump-ump. Thump-ump-ump. Thump-ump-ump.
Nav Parmar, dressed head to toe in a grey Timberwolves sweatsuit, sways his giant frame towards the young camper. He bends at the waist and puts his long, angular hands on his knees, looking directly at the camper.
Thump-ump-ump. Thump-ump-ump. Thump-ump-ump.
The man known for having the biggest heart in town looks at the young boy. Usually, he may offer some instruction, or correct a technique inefficiency that is holding the pupil back. Instead, he smiles.
“You having fun?” Parmar asks.
Without picking up his dribble, which still rings out far more rapidly than everyone else in the gym, the boy nods. “Yes, coach.”