Proud coach and father watches – live from Iraq – as basketball team wins championship

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Dedicated coach and father Jeff Bosch wasn’t going to let a little distance get between him and the Cochrane Cobras basketball team’s zone championship game last weekend … so he found a way to be courtside – live – from more than 10,000 kilometres away.

“Normally when you get jobs like this, you miss a lot of personal things with your family. You’re going to miss birthdays, stuff like that. But games like this – you don’t get replays on them,” the pipeline manager said this week from his office in Basra, Iraq.

“Thank goodness for technology.”

Bosch has been a basketball coach in Cochrane for years and is one of three leaders, along with Jamie McLellan and Mark Nzojibwami, who guided the Cobras junior varsity boys through a solid 22-4 regular season this fall. Bosch’s son Jonah also plays on the team.

The squad earned a spot at the Alberta Schools Athletic Association’s 3A-4A Zone Championships after besting the WH Croxford Cavaliers earlier this month to take the divisional banner. The zones took place last weekend at Bert Church High School in Airdrie.

Recently, Bosch took a new position through his work in oil and gas that involves regular travel back and forth from Iraq. When he realized he wouldn’t be in the country for the all-important tournament, he and his wife Marla came up with an idea to see if they could live stream the games through Marla’s iPhone’s FaceTime feature.

“He was here for the whole regular season – and then he was just gone,” said Marla. “That was a tough thing.”

After a few glitches, Bosch said they got a good connection going, and Bosch’s face filled the screen as the gold medal game against Okotoks’ Foothills Composite Falcons began

Marla sat behind the Cobras bench and held her phone into the air so her husband – literally a world away – could see all the players in action.

“They all knew I was there,” said Bosch with a laugh. “A few of them would peek back and say hello.”

“They’d turn around and they’d be like, ‘Hey Coach!’” added Marla. “We’d stick the phone in when the boys were huddling and in time-outs.”

Bosch was able to catch the first two quarters of the final before he had to leave for work: the 10-hour time difference made it evening for the Cobras, but morning for him.

He said it was an excruciatingly long 30-minute bus ride into work – knowing the team was down by 16 points when he left.

“I raced into the office and straight upstairs,” he recalled. “When I came back (on FaceTime), they had just started getting some momentum.”

It was in the last 15 minutes of the game that the Cobras dug down deep and battled back from their deficit in a thrilling fourth-quarter rally. Bosch said he couldn’t help but put on his coaching hat during the tensest moments of the match.

“I’m sitting here (in Iraq), acting like I’m on the bench,” he said, adding at one point he asked his wife to walk the phone over to assistant coach Nzojibwami. “I had to give him some pointers; just stuff that I saw. Normally, the three of us (coaches) sit and talk about what we’re seeing … I couldn’t resist.”

The minutes counted down and the Cobras continued to tighten the gap. Bosch said he couldn’t have felt prouder for the boys as he saw them giving it their all – just as they had all season.

“I think we outscored them 22-6 in the fourth quarter … that just doesn’t happen. The amount of heart that the team has – they get down, but they won’t stop,” he said.

One of the most storybook moments for Bosch came in the last seconds of the game, when – from his perch in an Iraqi port city, thousands of kilometres away – he watched his son Jonah land the basket that pushed the Cobras into winning position.

“I got to watch the game until my son Jonah scored that basket – then all I got to see is the phone waving around,” said Bosch with a smile, describing Marla’s waving and cheering on the other end of the line.

Marla said Bosch himself wasn’t sitting pretty when the buzzer sounded, either.

“He screamed so loud at the very end … four people outside of what was supposed to be a quiet room came in and said to him, ‘Is everything OK?’” she laughed.

Since Bosch’s presence was felt by the players throughout the final – the boys made sure he was included in the post-game celebrations, too.

“At the end of the game, they brought the phone into the cheer – they said, ‘Wait for Coach! Wait for Coach!’” said Bosch. “I got to be part of it, even though I was on the other side of the world.”

Bosch said he’s thankful that advances in communication were able to give him a courtside seat for one of the most memorable games the junior Cobras have ever played in their young basketball journeys so far.

That same technology also allowed his own son to take the phone while still standing on the court and talk to his dad amidst the excitement of the remarkable win.

Bosch said the closeness between them in that moment was so much stronger than the distance will ever be.

“I was telling him how proud I was…,” he said, trailing off as tears welled up in his eyes. “I told him how proud I was and that I loved him.

“I honestly consider myself very blessed … It’s the best that I could ask for.”

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