There is something about basketball that one cannot explain. Not sure if it’s the fast pace, the strategy in plays or the unexpected outcomes after watching teams sweat blood and tears as they play for the win. There really is something that feeds you an unprecedented level of energy that not many other things, activities, sports can get out of you. Bottom line, if you are a hardcore basketball lover, you know you are on fire in every game you watch, coach and play.
As time has gone by one cannot deny the talent on the basketball court has evolved. The game never stops growing, the arrival of new rules, new regulations, the new generations, the new faces don’t stop leaving us, the follower in pleasant awe.
A topic of interest in the last few years has been about young athletes “skipping” the college experience and going straight into the spotlight of professional sports. Some see it as premature, while others don’t see the problem at all. Of course, as with anything, we can have pros and cons to both sides. But at the end, one must admit regardless of what the player’s background is like, the game remains the same and let’s be honest, the enthusiasm continues to be high.
One of my favorite lines of writing is that of looking beyond the obvious –behind-the-scene story. Especially that of young athletes. As I see young athletes from early childhood to youth sports, I have to admit, is tough not to think of them as the future of the sport. And to play a little bit of the devil’s advocate role I must ask; Are high school graduates turning into professional that far of a reach? I think not. With the risk of being thrown a basketball right on my face, I am going to have to stick to my opinion on that regard.
If you have had the privilege of participating in youth sports, you know the scene is serious. Not only for those that play or coach, but also for the communities they live or represent. And why shouldn’t they be? Stop and think the amount of hours, money, commitment and passion that goes into youth sports. Yeah, it’s a lot isn’t it? And while professional sports give us a one of a kind of a thrill one cannot take away from watching young athletes work, develop and become those we will worship once they hit the professional court.
With that said, OSN spoke with coach Dave Schweitzer, head coach at Sherwood-6B Classic Team of the Three Rivers Youth Basketball. Coach Schweitzer has been coaching for several years now. A passionate basketball follower, Coach Dave has had the privilege to play in his youth and also as an adult with a few professional athletes at friendly competitions at the Nike campus. Needless to say that becoming a coach was probably not much of a decision to make, but most likely something he was meant to do as he clearly loves the sport let’s see what he had to say about his coaching style, his team, the parents, the community and his goals overall.
OSN: Youth sports (personally and in my own experience) I believe can be a bit more challenging at times to coach than other age groups because not only are you dealing with kids at times, but also their parents. Nonetheless they are rewarding and very exciting to be a part of. I believe that is one of the things our audience is always willing to learning and hearing from. With that said, tell us a little bit about your team.
Coach Dave: Our team is a sixth grade classic team. So they are, selected at the beginning of the year, by independent people who aren’t coaches, which I disagree with, but that’s a different subject!
OSN: Perfect! We can have a second part to this story and touch on that later on!
Coach Dave: They are selected by these independent judges, who classify them as A, B or C. My son made the B team, so I got assigned to coach the B team.
OSN: Is it a volunteer type of coaching position or is it part of the expectation when you child makes the team?
Coach Dave: No, it is strictly volunteer basis. I have to pay the fees for my kid to participate.
OSN: What are those fees if I may ask?
Coach Dave: This year it was $225.00 and then you have to buy a classic uniform, which is another $45.00, but we bought Jackson’s last year so he is using that.
OSN: Who is the governing authority over this specific panel of selection judges?
Coach Dave: It’s Sherwood Youth Basketball and the board members they’ve had. You know the coach of coaches is the Vice-president of classic basketball, the president of classic basketball. I am sure they are the ones that organize the judges. But the judges , well I take that back I think it comes from HS Coach. He has a good hand in the youth program for obvious reasons, which I think is a great idea as to how we run offense and as they transition into high school they are playing the same game.
OSN: I assume there are geographical limits for participation.
Coach Dave: Yes, it’s just the city of Sherwood, well there is two middle schools, but no matter what school they go to they play there.
OSN: What age group are we talking about?
Coach Dave: 6th graders, what is that? 11 and 12 years old?
OSN: Are there any academic requirements to be part of the team?
Coach Dave: No, not necessarily, although I’ve made it very clear to the parents that yes, if there is any type of academic issues, to let me know, obviously school is the most important thing.
OSN: Let’s break it up into a pieces. Tell me a little bit about the kids. What do you see per say in them as the seed of basketball. I mean, a lot of them are going from high school into the NBA, so the work really to build those players, starts really at this age. So tell me a little bit about the kids, are they just passing time or do they have a long term basketball vision?
Coach Dave: Yeah, you know you have both of them. I think that’s why I was so excited when my son Jackson got into fifth grade because that’s when classics starts. Because those kids are kids that want to get better. Want to learn, continue to play. But you still have, my team this year, I have two kids, well I take that back, one kid that is playing strictly on talent, but he doesn’t listen to practice, he talks back, so I mean he is not going to go very far. There is another kid, kind of the opposite he doesn’t have a lot of talent, but when you talk to him, he looks at you, he is listening, acknowledges what you say, but the rest of the kids, are all you know, very good kids. I think we are very lucky in Sherwood, good people that live there.
OSN: If I heard you correctly, you feel there is more potential to that young athlete who has listening stills and is willing to learn, versus the one that has innate talent? Do you feel there has to be a balance of both?
Coach Dave: Yeah, there has to be a balance of both. You know as long as they listen to the coach and I told them this — at the beginning of the year– I don’t care about talent, I don’t care about the shots, I don’t care about mistakes, all I want is the effort and the right attitude, and that will go a long ways.
OSN: Tell me about practice time. How long, how often, because that’s a pretty big commitment for a middle school athlete.
Coach Dave: Yeah, it’s two nights a week, for an hour and a half, so we get three hours of practice once a week, during the regular season. Then we play anywhere from one to four games per week. And then at the beginning of the year we have a scheduling meeting, when we schedule all the regular season games. We try to schedule them without taking any practice time and you know we have a lot of gym times that aren’t during our practice time. And then, the Sherwood Youth Program encourages us to play at least four youth tournaments and four games per tournament. So at the beginning of the year when I had all scheduled all these tournaments figured out, I figured we could play anywhere from 40 – 45 games this year. Which is a lot for sixth grade basketball. Jacob my junior in basketball, played 25 games.
OSN: Let’s talk about your practices. What is your regular routine like?
Coach Dave: I try to be very consistent. I’ve coached with other coaches who mix things up and is very confusing, so for my practices the first thing up it is dribbling drill and then a defensive drill and we’ve done that every single day since day one. But then, from there I switch things up doing different types of drills. Find what I’ve seen in previous games, see what they need to work on. We always work on shooting. That is something that I got from Rahim Tufts. That makes a difference if you can have a team that can shoot those team footers that kids don’t practice anymore. Then the last half hour we always scrimmage, a little bit of structured scrimmage and they must run plays, and I stop it, when I need to, you know to give them instructions.
OSN: How many hours would you say you put into this program?
Coach Dave: The first couple of years it was a lot more than it is now, just because I’ve gotten premade practice plans. I’ve got forms where I can set up lineups for games in a matter of a couple of minutes instead of staring at it for twenty – thirty minutes. I mean you do changes, but yeah.
OSN: So you have a template per say and you go from there?
Coach Dave: Yeah.
OSN: Do you make adjustments based on skill available or depending on how the game is going?
Coach Dave: A combination of both, yeah I will make adjustments you know, and take upon how a kid has practiced. How did he play in the previous game. And of course we go back to that attitude and effort you know that is a big factor. And you know, when you have, especially year we’ve had several kids sick, and I hate making adjustments during the game that is why I like having that. So that is always a stress when a kid doesn’t show up for a game and you have to readjust the whole practice plan and get going on the game but
OSN: Tell me a little about your opponents.
Coach Dave: Well, our league is the Three Rivers Basketball league and they got teams not only from the area, but regular three rivers, high school league. You got, North Marion is a team we played this year. Gresham is in there, Barlow is in there so they are all over the metro area.
OSN: Let’s move forward, you have had a full season, you are at tournament level now. You have the Oregon Middle School State Championship on March 9 and 10 and I see this is going on across the country. Each state has their own. How do you make it to that? Is it a registration based or do you go through playoffs?
Coach Dave: You have to qualify, and they have a qualifying tournament. And in those tournaments, the thing about the tournaments you have to get first or second place to qualify to go to the state tournament. And we actually qualified in two different tournaments so we won our bracket in the Sherwood tournament and got second place in the Wilsonville tournament that also qualified us.
OSN: How do the kids take win or a loss in your opinion at this age? They’re obviously growing up, but they still are young kids and emotion, so how do you handle that as a coach?
Coach Dave: This particular team, win or lose, it seems to be gone life five minutes later. And especially I notice that when we lose, because I take it a lot harder than they are. Five minutes after the game they are out laughing and having fun doing whatever they do, and where I am thinking about the game, what could we have done different, what do I need to do next time. In fact if you ask Jackson (Dave’s son and player for the Sherwood -6B Classic Team) this, and because we always go to the game early Tracy (Dave’s wife) goes in a separate car, Jackson will most likely will ride back with his mom.
OSN: I can imagine! Who wants to lock himself in a car with their coach after a loss!
Coach Dave: Yeah! That’s right.
OSN: Let’s talk about the parents. I’ve coached soccer and basketball in the past, and one of the many things one does is to deal with the parents and their emotions. Tell me a little bit about the experience of working with those parents, who are obviously committed to this as well, this is obviously a lot of time, a lot of money, and they have a lot of hopes and dreams for their kids.
Coach Dave: Again, I think we are pretty fortunate in Sherwood that we have such a great group of people out there, but I learned this early on you have to set up expectations up front. We have parents’ meeting. I have an agenda for that meeting that I’ve used year after year and there is a whole section in there about, if you have an issue, whatever it may be, send the kid in first, if it doesn’t get resolved after that, you need to wait 24 hours before you come out and talk to me.
OSN: So it’s pretty structured.
Coach Dave: Yeah, and this is the first year I’ve ever had a parent come talk to me about something that they may disagree about. And at first I didn’t know how to take it, because it had never happened before. And then you know after the conversation was over, you get that feeling of “gosh I wish I would’ve said this. I wish I would’ve said that”, but it really hasn’t been that bad. I have had to tell parents a couple of times to be quiet and stop yelling at refs, but yeah I’ve only ever had a parent confront me about an issue and that was this year.
OSN: Considering all the time and work, you obviously have a son that plays in the team, but overall, why coach? What’s in it for you?
Coach Dave: Well, to be honest with you, it’s kind of a selfish reason, but part of it is to be able to hang out with my son and get to know his friends on a very personal basis. Where most parents don’t know their kids’ friends that well where I do, and is not only those kids, but I know those that hang around at the game, or friends of their friends I get to know them pretty well. And since I don’t play anymore, is an outlet for my competitive side. Scheme the game plan you know and all that, I enjoy a lot. And it’s a sport I’ve enjoyed a lot and I have a brother-in-law that likes it a lot and we have the Blazers so it’s kind of that thing.
OSN: Let’s move forward to the tournament. What do you expect out of the team for this tournament?
Coach Dave: This last league season ending tournament that we had, we went over four and that was last weekend, so seriously I don’t know what to expect. We had a pretty good practice Monday, we have our last practice tonight before our first game tomorrow. And I will tell the kids this all the time “we play how we practice” so I could probably answer that question better after tonight’s practice. I know that the kids love going there and playing, especially the way they set it up. Because our first game is at the fairgrounds in the arena, so it’s a big arena so they get a kick out of that. They can be a little shocked by all the lights and stuff sometimes, but we will see how it goes.
OSN: So, what are your hopes? You are not sure what to expect, but what are your hoping your team will do?
Coach Dave: To win the championship of course!
OSN: Who do you think is going to be your biggest competitor?
Coach Dave: We actually have in our bracket a team out of our league, North Marion that is a very good team. And they’ve beat us by 20, 25 points earlier in the year. And we are actually playing Saturday morning because they are right next to us, so if we both win our games Friday nights we will play each other Saturday morning. I hope that’s the case, because is hard to beat a team twice. And I think that our team, especially our team, because we are good, but there are times that we don’t give the effort that we should and that’s when we lose. But, when we play together, we play together as a team, everybody is giving 110% in defense we can beat anybody.
OSN: To close, what would you tell your team, the parents, and any other family out there who wants to be part of basketball, why should they play?
Coach Dave: Well, you know, is like why play any sport you know? Is so you can learn to work as a team. Because I think there is a lot of lifeskills on that. And you know you gotta work together as a team. For me coaching that team has helped me tremendously over the years as far as coaching employees, coaching my staff, motivating my staff.
The experience of youth sports is for sure of high importance for all sports. As we initialled discussed, it seems to be some of the best players have gone from high school straight to pros. With that said I believe it is only fair to highlight how exactly those athletes become who they become.
There are thousands of youth athletic programs across the world. And while we may encounter different techniques and styles both in playing and coaching, the ultimate goal is the same, to contribute to the world of sports not only talent and skill, but individuals who will not only succeed because they “play” but because they know how to play well with others per say!
And if you follow sports consistently or even from time to time, you know that the need to make sure athletes understand the importance of respect, hard work and consistency is high. There are several teams at the professional level that have great game, great talent, wonderful coaches, but from time to time lack that “as one” vision a team should have. As Coach Dave said, the game is played better when the effort is there, and the reality is that talent is just not enough, there must be the right amount of attitude and effort as well.
I have to admit, having heard coach Dave talk about his team, I have become extremely curious and excited to see what the Sherwood-6B team will do this coming weekend. Will they pull together, follow the plays taught during practice all season long? After all, they are heading to a state level tournament, where the best of the best in Middle School Basketball will meet once more to show their state, their families, and foremost their coach that they have been listening and they are not coming home without that win as one and for all.
The 2018 Oregon Middle School Basketball Championship will take place in Redmond/Bend and Sisters in Central Oregon. For a list of all the participating teams by date of qualification visit http://www.statebasketballchampionship.com/or-qualified-teams.