WHS coaches plan to turn after-school interactive sessions, basketball camp into interactive library
Starting this week, students of all ages in the Waynesville R-VI School District will start receiving invitations to the “Tiger Virtual Basketball Bootcamp.” Organized by the district’s basketball coaches, the camp will be conducted free of charge and completely online Monday nights starting Monday and continuing through May 25.
“We are involving all the basketball coaches in the Waynesville school system,” said Chris Pilz, WHS head boys’ basketball coach, who is putting the final touches on the camp this week with WHS head girls’ basketball coach Brittany Matlock.
The camp has grown out of ongoing virtual-coaching sessions by WHS coaches of all sports and physical-education teachers over the past month, as COVID-19 mitigation efforts replaced classroom time with distance learning and delayed, at first — and then canceled — this year’s spring sports seasons.
Through videos, group chats and online meetings on a variety of platforms and social media outlets, coaches have tried to keep student-athletes motivated and working toward goals.
Matlock said she has used several different video platforms to stay connected with her team, offering them workouts and having discussions about life, leadership and the importance of, “just staying connected.”
“It’s about nurturing relationships not only with the players on our teams but the students in our classes — you want to create those opportunities to connect,” she said. “I don’t mind trying new things. You just have to get creative, improvise and be willing to adjust.”
Joe Haynes, WHS head football coach, said he and his staff have been busy posting and sharing workout videos, healthy recipe ideas and more several times each week, as well as holding virtual team meetings.
“It allows us to achieve some face-to-face interaction with our guys, and just reconnect for a brief time,” Haynes said. “It’s really a breath of fresh air for our whole team, given the circumstances.”
While technology has made most students more interconnected than in the past, Haynes said one of the biggest challenges, both in teaching and coaching remotely, is being able to reach every student.
“Each household has a different set of daily challenges that come with the distance learning/virtual education model that we’ve adopted,” he said. “Seeking solutions to maintain our connection with all our kids is a daily task. The success, for us, comes from seeing the kids post and repost (their responses) to the different workout challenges. Speaking with them during team meetings and hearing their positive feedback is a great feeling.”
Pilz said that, fundamentally, the instruction coaches give is the same, “but the connection is different.” Shortly after distance-learning procedures began, Pilz began conducting an after-school “daily basketball connection” to check in with his players.
“We wanted to make sure each student-athlete was having a positive experience with our new school format,” he said. “We have a physical and mental lesson each day. Currently, we are progressing through a 12-week program to increase vertical jump and a push-up challenge. Some of the other lessons we have covered include topics like what success looks like in a virtual school, how to train different and daily expectations in a virtual school day.”
While the virtual basketball camp will be presented live, Pilz said recorded versions of it and other instructional videos and lessons that the district’s basketball coaches have made will eventually be gathered into a new resource that students can use in the future.
“We are building a library of instructional videos on physical and mental skills,” Pilz said. “Our plan is for current and former coaches and current and former players to assist in building the library.”
Cory Ace, R-VI Activities director, said coaches’ efforts have fit squarely within the goals of the athletic department since the impact of COVID-19 safety measures began.
“Our focus as an athletic department (is to) keep in contact with student-athletes, continue to hold them accountable for academics through grade checks, provide character-ed development and skill development virtually, and provide them with workout options,” Ace said. “Our coaches have taken extreme ownership in this and are continuing to lead despite the circumstances. The COVID-19 virus has brought on many changes, but as a department we are focused on making the best of these changes, adopting new practices and being innovative to continue to be above the status quo and come out of this experience having grown into more than what we were when this all started.”
Ace said students can help in the process, too.
“My advice to student-athletes is to take ownership in this and continue to move forward,” he said. “The resources are available to you and your individual growth is dependent on what you do on a daily basis despite our current situation.”