The McPherson Middle School Basketball season starts on Monday night. For a preview of the season, and to get an understanding of what the team’s goals are before the year begins. Coach T.J. Jackson and Coach Jay Crawford were kind of enough to send me their responses:
QW: What is the outlook for the season? Teams you know will be competitive, how McPherson stacks up on paper.
JACKSON: Before the season we always have the girls fill out team and personal goals. A lot has changed when it comes to the way our roster looks, but one thing hasn’t and that is the expectation to win. Last year they only lost to Lakewood in league and the goal is undefeated now. Lakewood seems to be the team to beat again as we have heard nothing has changed there, but our girls have obvious growth from last year that I feel will be huge for the run this year.
CRAWFORD: I’m looking forward to the start of our season and watching these young men compete, they have worked hard and are starting to understand how to practice with a purpose. This group had a very good 7th-grade season and I want to build off that with the understanding they must compete at all drills and encourage their teammates along the way.
QW: What are your keys to fielding a successful team this season? What will be vital in engendering a winning team and culture?
JACKSON: The keys for us is that each player matter as much as the next. Of course, we are going to have someone lead us in scoring, but if we can see an even more well-rounded approach to all parts of the game this year, no one has as many athletes as we have on the court to start the game. After the first few weeks of practice, the piece I see that will mean the most is defense. Offense is so easy to hustle because they know they have a chance to score. Defensively it takes a lot right now to get everyone to move quickly together. If we get the top effort from all of them on both sides, these girls will see what they can really do.
CRAWFORD: We want to get out and push the ball and be sound on the defensive end. There is a lot for them to learn and as long as they give consistent effort in all they do then for me that will be a successful season. We want to be the hardest playing team on the court every time we play…
QW: Standout players on the team? Who do you look to for leadership on your roster?
JACKSON: Standout players is such a tough thing for middle school. Sometimes maturity is the biggest factor. Karter Alvord is probably the strongest physical player we have and Maddie Moors is probably the most aggressive when it comes to working both sides of the court. After them, we have several solid players who offer strong individual pieces. We are going to be looking for leadership from our captains who were chosen by their peers and that is Kaya Lowery, Karter Alvord, and Maddie Moors. All three know their role is to lead with their body language, their communication, and their effort. I don’t think we have to worry about them not showing those to their teammates.
CRAWFORD: When it comes to winning games, I have always believed that it starts with learning how to properly practice and doing it with a mindset of wanting to carry that over onto the court and if we can take that competitive attitude onto the court then we will win our share of games.
QW: What players are you expecting growth from this season?
JACKSON: When looking for growth I really look to see Maya Davis and Jayla McLoed be the ones to see as athletes who can make an impact when everything starts to fall together. Jayla is a standout athlete who is just starting to be involved in team sports. Having her involved and the ability she has to be coachable is pivotal for this team. Maya might not more time than some of the others to catch up, but she is always the first to be verbal on defense, always hustles, and always listens. You don’t ever have to worry about her commitment to her teammates.
QW: What has been your favorite experience in coaching?
JACKSON: My favorite experience in coaching so far has been the change we see each year as middle school coaches. In high school, you have four years and you get to see your work with kids really be easy to see. As a middle school coach, you want to prepare them for high school and each group needs different things from you as a coach. The yearly change requires me to grow. These kids deserve that and it’s such a blessing to be a part of their story.
CRAWFORD: What I enjoy about coaching is trying to get kids to “exit their comfort zone” and rather that means learning new drills, new plays or having new coaches but to mold a hardworking team in just 3 months that can show improvement quickly and to mold them into a team that has a team above self attitude.