New Solanco varsity boys basketball coach David Long has already embarked on a long-range plan to build a successful program.
Long, his assistant coaches, and several Mules players provided instruction for incoming second through eighth graders during the Solanco Basketball Boys Youth Camp held last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings at the high school.
"The mission is getting the guys involved in our program at a young age, reaching out to see who we have at the second grade level, third grade level," Long said. "Just getting them introduced to how we do things. Less of Xs and Os and things like that, and more of some of our core values. [Monday] we talked about humility and gratitude, stuff like that. Work ethic. We're going to send them home with a workout they can do at home. We realize three days in the summer isn't going to be how you get better. It's going to be consistently doing stuff over and over. I think our goal is to educate what we're looking for in basketball players. The kids can't get better of they don't know what we're looking for."
Long says consistency is key for a player to achieve his goals. "We're big on consistent work habits rather than killing yourself one day a week," Long said. "We'd rather you every day do 30 minutes of good work. Our better guys have been the ones we see all summer. That's what we're trying to instill. The more guys you have at a young age working out, that's how we feel we can build a program."
Serving as instructors also benefits Solanco High's players. "What I hope they get out of it is kind of an appreciation for some of the details that we're trying to instill," said Long. "I think being on this side of it and not being a player for a week makes you realize why everything is so important. How you set a screen is really important. I don't think you always get that as a player. When you have to teach somebody and they're learning it, I think it helps you learn a lot better. I think they get a lot of enjoyment of being a role model to some of the younger guys. That's what I've seen."
His players agree. "You get some enjoyment out of it because you get to play basketball with some younger kids that are going to be here in the future," said Colesen Sheaffer. "Also, it's nice to feel like I'm doing something for the program. I'm helping teach the next generation of this program. I'm glad to be a part of what's going on with this program."
Said rising senior Jalen Henry: "It's pretty fun working with the kids. Some of them are really advanced for their age. I just like how a bunch of kids love to play basketball and how they want to learn how to play the game the correct way and have fun."
Having fun is a key component. "I'm trying to teach them to play basketball the right way, like the coach wants you to play, but at the same time, have fun while you're doing it," said Henry. "Don't be programmed like a robot. And the little things matter, not just in basketball but in life in general."
Henry sees other benefits to working the camp. "I'm learning communication skills," he said. "Since they're younger you can't talk to them the same way you would talk to your teammates. Talking to them you learn what you can say and can't say, positive and negative. You learn to use constructive criticism."
Long, an assistant at Solanco for three seasons, took over the head coaching reins from his brother, Scott, who starts his new job as Solanco High School principal July 1.
Thirty-nine youngsters attended the camp.
"We're hoping to boost that up to higher numbers next year," David Long said.
Long and his players are hoping the camp can help rejuvenate the program. "We're trying to build up the program right now," Sheaffer said. "It starts from the bottom. It starts with all these little kids coming in here and learning what we're doing and what our goals are for the future of this program, especially with our new head coach."