Forest Lake Christian renews girls basketball JV program
With a new head coach and eight eager, enthusiastic players composing their roster, the Forest Lake Christian Lady Falcons junior varsity program can once again spread its wings.
Building the foundation for a competitive high school sports program begins with offering teams designated for younger students so they have ample opportunities to develop their skill sets. This allows the transition to the higher, more competitive levels of play to be a much smoother experience. But last year, Forest Lake Christian girls basketball suffered the loss of its junior varsity program, and as a result, many girls were thrust into the competitive arena of varsity basketball.
“We had the girls to play. We just couldn’t get a coach,” said Forest Lake Christian Athletic Director Steve Koch. “The junior varsity program had played a couple of games under shared leadership before converging with varsity, but there was just no way to keep it going throughout the year.”
The convergence of young athletes on the varsity level was far from desirable.
On one hand, there were experienced players who had been in the system for years and knew the game inside and out, but on the other hand, sitting on the same bench were girls who were learning for the first time.
The younger girls didn’t get as much playing time and hadn’t received the chance to develop their skills, so when they did play, the whole process was very discouraging to them since they were competing against upperclassmen on other varsity squads, said Koch, which led to girls quitting the team.
Basketball is such a great sport, and it was a shame last year ruined the experience for some of them, he added.
Forest Lake Christian had been trying to find a coach for some time and they had their eyes on one of their own faculty, Lyndsay Barham, the school’s choir teacher who started in August, but she felt she was unable to make the commitment right away due to her obligation as choir teacher and her pursuit of a master’s degree in choral conducting at Sacramento State.
“Faith is a big deal at our school,” said Koch. “We needed to find someone with that characteristic and also a good coaching figure. It takes a process, an in-depth search, if you will, to seek out someone’s character and find who they are.”
Unable to find anyone during the offseason, Forest Lake Christian turned to Barham the minute she stepped foot on campus.
“Mr. Schoellerman, our school president, immediately asked her to take on the coaching job,” Koch said. “She just needed to make sure she didn’t have too big of a load.”
After weighing her current work load and realizing we could work out some minor conflicts with her schedule, Barham made the decision to move forward with the coaching position, said Koch.
“I’m one of those people who likes to feel out my schedule,” said Barham. “I’m going for my master’s at Sacramento State. I was able to manipulate my schedule and make it work, so I told Steve I’d love to do it.”
The new coach is already being tested on the court by a lack of depth. In their most recent tournament at Golden Sierra, the Lady Falcons had two players out injured and another who was absent, so they played three games with just five players over a four-day span.
“They really stepped up and played with heart,” Barham said. “The other teams put in fresh players off the bench, and we continued to fight.”
This team seems as excited to play as Barham is to coach them, and every step is forward with this group of girls.
“She’s really going for it and doing wonderful things,” Koch said. “She has the faith, the Christian character, and is so mature, ahead of her time.”
Barham’s decision to coach came just in time for Forest Lake Christian, as the season was just about to get underway.
Having the junior varsity program reinstated this year not only benefits the underclassmen, but it also stabilizes the varsity program for years to come.
“You can groom them into basketball players, and sometimes find that little diamond in the rough,” said Koch. “Tom Ritchart and Marty Pearce can watch the girls progress and begin to develop them, implementing what they’d like too see evolve at the next level in varsity.”
When the Lady Falcons chose Barham, they weren’t just getting a choir teacher, a graduate student and an individual with strong Christian faith and character, but they were also bringing in an experienced athlete who played at both the high school and collegiate level.
“In college, I played at William Jessup,” Barham said. “I blew out my knees and had to stop. I had kept playing until they just gave out. In high school, I played everything … basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, volleyball and softball.”
A graduate of Freedom Christian High School in Fair Oaks, Barham helped her team win the Northern Pacific Division and make it to the Sac Joaquin Division V Section semifinals three out of four years. At William Jessup, her team did well enough to make the playoffs.
Even after being sidelined by injury, Barham still has a passion for the game, she said.
The junior varsity team is in need of a coach who understands the game and can also offer methods of learning that adapt to their raw skill sets, as half of the players are brand new to the sport.
“I love watching their level of skills improve every time and just seeing the fruits of their labor,” Barham said. “Half of them had never played at all until a few weeks back. It’s been night and day improvement and watching them thrive.”
With learning comes criticism, but the girls have taken well to instruction, and their desire to succeed seems to be getting stronger with every play on the court, she said.
“They notice and recognize their mistakes,” Barham said. “They’re just so teachable. I give them goals each time, like get 25 points this game or take away more steals and shut down things, just one or two each time for them to work toward,” Barham said. “I like to see students coming in get good foundational skills to catapult them into the varsity program — teaching them to understand it here so the coaches can push them hard.”
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call (530) 477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
New season. New co-head coaches. Same expectations.