Kent Chezem, Head Boys Basketball Coach at North Judson-San Pierre High School
I’ve been fortunate enough to be hired as a varsity basketball coach 4 times in my 27 year coaching career, and each job has posed its own set of challenges. On May 19 of this year, I was hired to be the Boys Basketball Coach and Dean of Students at North Judson-San Pierre HS and without a doubt, being hired in the middle of a pandemic has been the biggest challenge so far. Currently it has been a month since I was named the coach and I have not been able to meet any of our players in person. We’ve had many Zoom calls and several virtual team meetings, but like every other coach in the state, I’ve been relegated to coaching our team remotely.
When a coach steps into a new job, there are so many things that must be taken care of. From assessing equipment needs and hiring a coaching staff to selling your house and relocating your family. Certainly these things are important and must be addressed, but when taking over a basketball program it is imperative to get the program going in the right direction as quickly as possible. Like they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
The silver lining to the restrictions that we are dealing with this summer is that it has forced me to focus and drill down on what I think is the most important when taking over a new program: creating a winning culture. Our entire program is based on 5 Pillars of Success:
Everything we do in our program has to be built on these 5 pillars and our summer workout program is no exception.
First we coined the phrase, “The Long Blue Line”, to honor the tradition of Bluejay Basketball. We look back at the Long Blue Line of great players/teams and challenge ourselves to live up to the tradition they have set. They have set the direction of the Blue Line and we can look back to see how they achieved success, but we also want to paint our own blue line of excellence. We named our summer workout program “The Blue Line Battle.”
For the Blue Line Battle, we divided our high school players into 4 teams. We named them after some of our all-time great players: Team Manns, Team Eckert, Team Standifer, and Team Webb. Each team has a current player designated as a team leader and they are responsible for motivating their team and tracking their summer workouts. Our coaching staff came up with a point system that allows players to earn points for shooting, ball-handling, and weight training.
Two weeks into the Blue Line Battle and it’s apparent that we have integrated our 5 Pillars of Success into our program. Our kids have great ATTITUDES. They are working very hard and have been able to adapt whatever equipment they have available to them. Their EFFORT has been off the charts. The point values they have turned in so far have even exceeded my expectations. They have been sending the coaching staff videos of their workouts and holding each other accountable to a high standard of INTEGRITY in charting their points. They have certainly shown great UNITY as they have found times to meet together as a group to workout. And most importantly, they are developing SERVANT LEADERSHIP. Our team leaders found a court in North Judson and spent extra time cleaning it up and pulling weeds, etc… so their teammates would have a place to play.
It has been exciting to see our program get off on the right foot. I think our kids are excited about basketball and hopefully getting to workout as a team in July. Our assistant coaches have been active on social media posting videos of our players with the intent of letting the community know how hard our players are working in the off season. Community support and excitement are trending in the right direction. Now if we can just continue to paint our own Blue Line.