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    November 13, 2013

    Off the Rim - Programs vs Teams

    By Hoops

    In this, the second installment of my commentaries, I would like to discuss the basketball being played in our high schools and junior high schools, and why it appears that some schools seem to always be in contention for conference and provincial championships while others seldom are or, if they are, only sporadically.

    It is Hoops' opinion that the main reason is the difference between running a program and having a team. If you look at the schools which are consistently in contention and regularly appear in all top ten rankings, these are the same schools that have consistency with their coaches, some of whom have been there for many years.

    This is sometimes the root of recruiting allegations directed at some schools. In truth, it could be the athlete recruiting the coach, rather than the opposite, which can and does happen, meaning good players might want to play where they know they are going to get good coaching and a competitive schedule. Can we blame them, no matter what the affect on their community school?

    As in many organizations, it often comes down to leadership. In education, this means the school boards, superintendents, and principals. It does not appear that Education Manitoba, or any school division, have any real policies governing athletics. Some administrators seem to understand the importance of teams in our schools and make the effort to hire and support quality coaches ensuring that their schools offer quality basketball programs over the long term. Players get good coaching at the younger grades and progress through to the varsity teams, ensuring success.

    I am aware that teacher unions avoid this topic and would prefer that the present system of volunteer coaches remain outside of any collective bargaining discussion. However, it is Hoops' opinion that until school divisions develop strong policies governing the need to hire and support quality coaches in all of our schools, many schools will only continue to be able to say that are fielding teams on a year-to-year basis rather than offering a quality program that the school can be proud of over the long term.

    We welcome your comments on this topic by posting them below!  Basketball Manitoba welcomes submissions from the basketball community to its website.  If you would like to become a regular contributor, please contact our webmaster.  
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    1. I feel that the most important aspect about this topic was missed. In many cases, and I argue well over 75 % of kids don't go to schools because of good coaching or the thought that they will receive good coaching. Think about it. What is good coaching? What really is good coaching?? Is it winning games? Because if it is winning games then we must be forgetting that the teams with the better players are always going to win more games than the others. And generally the bigger schools have more students to select from which means the probability of having more talented players. If good coaching is about sending kids to play ball after high school, that then depends first on the love of the game that the kid himself/herself has, not the ability of the coach. In addition, chances are if you are already a good player, your chance to go play at the next level is greater not because of the coach of your high school team. If good coaching (which Hoops spoke about being one of the reasons why kids select specific schools) is about giving your time, sacrificing moments with your personal families, working hard to improve someone's skills, caring about playing top level basketball or if coaching is about being a positive role model for kids then I guess the majority of our schools must be fill with a lot of basketball ignorant and uncommitted people with poor values and characteristics.

      Many times players and parents don't know if someone is a good coach until they are coached by that coach and feel that the coach works for them. Listen...Teams become programs in the views of the general public because of what parents and younger athletes have been made to think a certain school is like. Kids change or enrol in schools because of the thought that the school they are going to go to is a better "basketball" school.

      Let me give an example. In the boys category in Manitoba High school basketball, there are basketball lovers and coaches with a lot of knowledge and commitment in leadership positions in a large number of schools: Tec Voc - Garth McAlpine, DMCI - Jason Popone, Kelvin - Don Lamont, Sisler - Scott Martian, St. John's - Jim Anastastiatas, Maples - Scott Kirkpatrick, MBCI - Matt Opalko (Ken Opalko for years), The Collegiate - Grant Richter, K.E.- Art Koop, Vincent Massey - Damian Drzewiec, Frc - Kevin Rowan, Glenlawn - Jon Wolfe, Neelin- Don Thompson, Oak Park - John Lungren, Dakota - Dean Fivoni, Miles Mac - Jeff Shaddock, St. Paul's - Jeff Laping, J.T. Spiros Kavadas, Norm Formel - J.H. Bruns, Winkler - Walter Giesbrecht, St. James - Ryan Kangas, Nelson Mac - Dave Day, Garden City- Phil Penner, Sturgeon Heights - Stephen Tackie. I have not included the countless number of schools with new and upcoming coaches that are trying to elevate basketball in their schools. All of these schools have had basketball experienced people active in their schools for multiple years, yet we generally see the better players going to certain school or we see the same teams roaming the top of the hill. There is an illusion that some schools are "just better". This is an illusion. This is a major reason why some schools have "teams" and some have, to use the language of Hoops, a "program".

    2. PART 2 CONTINUED - It takes hard work and time to help a school that is not a "basketball school" become one. But it becomes an impossible task when governing bodies, parents and the like pass on views and opinions that if kids want to go somewhere with basketball, they should go to specific schools. Unfortunately this happens. This is one of the issues with Manitoba Basketball. If we want our province to elevate in basketball, have more Provincial teams win National Championship medals, have more kids go on to play CIS, NCAA, Professional and continue to stay involved in the game, then what we need to have is more people giving birth to seven footers. (No that was a joke ....just laugh) If we want to elevate our basketball in Manitoba we need to trust the basketball leaders in our schools. They all have come from a place in basketball that has solidified their love for the game and motivated them to give it back. The more we allow all coaches to work with these kids, the better basketball would be through out the province. This will mean more tough teams, causing players to practice and work on their game a lot more. Competition will rise, school-school conference rivalries will return, and the benefits go on and on.

      I agree that there may be a difference between teams and programs but it is because of the uneducated and false beliefs that one or two, or that some schools have better basketball "programs" then others. I am encouraging to trust the coaches that are in your respective schools. Give them a chance to make a positive impact on your life and basketball experience. Coaches all go to the same basketball coaching clinics. We all get in the gym and want our kids to try their best. But if the better players all leave and go to a select few schools, then we all lose. The coaches of the schools with less talented players lose their enthusiasm and drive because they may feel that they are already playing behind or that the players that they are spending time with are going to leave their school therefore it becomes an unwinnable battle to play against the powerhouse teams. The schools that these kids leave to go to are unfairly painted with this image of having a "program" when all they really have is a collection of the better players.

    3. I agree with Coach Tackie's comments for the most part, particularly when it comes to players and parents judging coaching and basketball programs based primarily upon wins and losses. Sadly, sports is one of those aspects of our society where reason is thrown out the window in favor of judging everything purely on results (and everyone is allowed to have an opinion on anything because they're really huge fans, no matter how little knowledge they have on the subject).

      However, I also find it problematic that fellow coaches and administrators tend to rely heavily upon the amount of time that coaches devote towards coaching activities when evaluating the effectiveness of coaches. It's a real reductive way to judge the effort of a coaching staff, because it ignores the content of what's being taught and the atmosphere that the coach creates. While coaching over the past couple of decades I've been exposed to a number of different programs, coaches, and administrators, and I always find that coaches and administrators place a disproportionate weight on the amount of time that a coach devotes towards their team, often ignoring coaches who lack knowledge, avoid teaching or instructing, and - worst of all - create a negative atmosphere for their teams/players. Yet, these types of coaches are always protected based on the excuse of "... but look how much time they put in." That's a poor excuse when the time being put into the team/program is unproductive and perhaps abusive. There are lots of people who believe they can coach, but their motivations for coaching are often misguided. It's great to have people who want to devote time towards coaching, but a lot of these people just want to be around a team or a sport. They like the idea of winning and they want to take credit for a team or player's success, rather than actually wanting to coach and instruct young athletes, no matter the actual results on a scoreboard.


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    Item Reviewed: Off the Rim - Programs vs Teams Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Adam Wedlake
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