What was typically an NBA manto- man, run and gun, 7th and 8th grade boys Junior Jazz League was transformed this year into a basketball fundamental training camp where zone defenses, full court presses, offensive schemes and inbound plays ruled supreme.
At the beginning of the season, Grantsville High boys’ hoop Coach Larry Sandberg and staff asked the league to adopt high school rules for the 7th and 8th grade boys program to better prepare the boys for high school basketball.
David Delaney, director of the Junior Jazz programs in Grantsville, obliged. The old rules for this age group precluded many aspects of the game that are essential in developing a player for high school. Self-discipline and team play can only be learned when multiple offensive and defensive schemes are practiced and played. These kids try out for freshman basketball and have no idea what a zone offense or defense is. When they play man-to-man offense or defense, for that matter, they don’t know how to double team, move without the ball or set hard picks because the rules precluded them from doing so.
And what about players fulfilling their role on the team? Until this year it was unheard of. So…in high school, contention is common because our kids were not taught what their strengths and weaknesses were and what their roles may be. Our high school Coaches lose valuable time smoothing over hurt feelings and teaching both athletes and parents alike that little Johnny’s role for his team may be to come off the bench rather than to start…or to rebound and play tough defense rather than be the go-to shooter. How many of our young players have been taught an assist is better than a score? We shouldn’t have that problem now.
I’m glad to see the change and applaud David Delaney and staff, as well as Coach Sandberg and staff, for their vision. Having coached Junior Jazz Basketball teams over the years, I have long felt the program taught bad habits to players, promoting the most skilled players and leaving the others behind. These NBA “run and gun” tactics do little to develop all players in the program, and you know as well as I do, that today’s upstart can be tomorrow’s all-star. That is why I am a disciple of John Wooden. I believe in the “Pyramid of Success” which uses basketball skills to teach value-based attributes and character in athletes.
As these traits develop, the athlete’s skill level improves exponentially until competitive greatness is achieved. Time and time again, I have seen a team of very talented individual players fall to a team of average players individually, but unbeatable as a team, as they practice this method. It is truly remarkable.
While each coach may have his own ideas and methods of teaching this great game to his players, the bottom line is to fundamentally train our 7th and 8th grade boys so when they walk onto the floor at GHS to tryout for the freshman team, they have some idea of what to expect and some concept of what skills they need to perform. We want our players thinking, “Oh, I’ve been there done that,” instead of thinking, “Oh boy, what the heck are they talking about?”
This year, our 8th grade boys have a pretty good idea what to expect. Next year’s crop will be even better. Our Junior Jazz coaches have done a great job preparing our young men for the challenges to come. The 7th and 8th grade boys’ coaches this year were Darwin Childs, Neil Critchlow, Derek Dalton, Joe Peterson, Andy Roberts, and yours truly. A host of assistants were at our sides doing a great job as well. Parents and family members have been very supportive. And last but not least, we have seen a big difference in the boys. They feel like they’re part of a basketball program now.
Their skills have improved, they have had a taste of what awaits them and as a result, they have more confidence.
A special thank you to the Utah Jazz and our Junior Jazz Sponsors.
But an extra special thank you to our local Junior Jazz Directors, volunteer coaches and fans. You are making a difference in the lives of our children and we look forward to reading about their future success while playing for the Cowboys of Grantsville High School.