NU starts mentoring program
Walking onto a campus as big as Nevada Union High School can be quite intimidating to any freshman. So many students crossing paths, so many opportunities to get involved, but with just as great of a chance to become lost in the shuffle.
With more than 500 students per grade, simply knowing your own classmates can be a challenge, not to mention getting to know the upperclassmen.
But the coaching staff of the Nevada Union girls basketball program is well aware of those intimidating factors facing the players. The coaches also realized early in the season that instead of having 39 players act as part of one program, they seemed to have three very separate teams.
In hope of adding a sense of community and shared experience to the program, the varsity, junior varsity and freshman coaches created a mentoring program.
Approximately midway through the season, the coaches matched every girl in the program with a buddy. They attempted to make unlikely pairs, putting together vocal players with quiet or shy players. Most of the varsity players are paired with junior varsity players, with sophomores matching up with freshmen.
The buddy pairs are encouraged to talk at least two times a week and form a support system for each, along with a new friendship.
“It’s very easy to go into a school and feel like you don’t matter,” freshman coach Kate Dudley said. “This program has the potential of making changes.”
While the program is just in its infancy stages, Dudley and her fellow coaches hope to lay a foundation for the program this season and strengthen it each year. Each season the players will have a new buddy.
Earlier this season, I wrote a prep profile feature about senior Mackey Purkey. This season she is the only senior in her class to have played basketball all four years.
Her situation amazed me. Out of such a large student body, how could just one girl would make the commitment the entire way through? And in talking with varsity coach Duwaine Ganskie, I know he is dedicated to never having a senior class that small again.
He knows, however, to avoid a repeat of the situation the program must be able to build a certain level of loyalty during the players’ freshman and sophomore years and make them feel excited to be a part of the program.
This mentorship program is certainly an outstanding way to do such a thing. Players who feel like they belong and have something invested in a sport are less likely to quit.
When I was a freshman in high school, I was part of a similar program. The varsity volleyball players adopted each of the freshman players. We made locker decorations for each other each week, hung out and chatted before practice, and basically gave each other support throughout the season.
My varsity buddies became some of my best friends in high school. And nothing is more special to a freshman than receiving attention from a senior, whether it’s a “hi” in the hallway or a “great job in your game” comment.
Purkey told me that she remembers being a freshman and wanting to talk to the older players, but felt really awkward about it. Now, a program is in place that will allow that kind of communication to occur on a regular basis.
Varsity starter Sarah McAtee and I chatted about the program and how she is in a somewhat strange situation. After being moved up to the varsity as a freshman, she will not play with the majority of the players in her class until next year – creating sort of a comfort gap for when all of the players eventually play together on the same team.
McAtee sees the mentoring program as helping to bridge that gap and prepare for the future.
“We’re building the friendships now so that in the future we’ll have a stronger base,” McAtee said. “We’re starting team building now before we’re even teammates.”
What a great opportunity the NU coaches have created for their players and their program. It’s now up to the players to take the mentoring idea to a place where it can strengthen the program and the high school basketball experience.
Sportswriter Stacy Hicklin’s column appears Wednesdays. To contact her e-mail her via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 477-4244.
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