Basketball needs better feeder system

I believe this is the last column I wrote as sports editor at The Republic, so I’m saving it here for posterity.

Originally published in The (Columbus, Ind.) Republic, April 18, 2009

THERE was a quote from former Columbus North boys soccer coach David Green that caught my attention.

In last Friday’s Republic, sportswriter Tyler Hoeppner had a story about Green being named 2008 State Boys Coach of the Year for Indiana large schools by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Adidas.

Green spoke about how the award was not just his, but also for the kids who had worked hard for the team’s success.

The following quote stuck with me: “Andy and I had coached these kids since they were 12 years old or so. We knew them quite well. We knew their personalities, and that allowed us to work with them in different parts of the field so they could become complete players,” Green said. “And the fact that we were able to bring them all the way through made it much easier because we knew them so well, they knew us and they knew each other.”

If only all Columbus sports had that kind of long-term connection between coach and player.

Beyond the athleticism that’s been evident the last few years, a big reason for the football success at East and North has been the contact between the high school coaching staffs and younger players through the PAAL, Taylorsville and middle school football programs.

Because Bob Gaddis and Tim Bless spend time training coaches of the pre-high school programs how they run things, that translates into success — and familiarity — once players reach high school.

It doesn’t matter, in that sport’s case, which school players decide to attend.

The same can be said of other sports in which there are definite “training grounds” for aspiring athletes — Donner Swim Club, Columbus Express soccer, Jody’s Gymnastics Zone, to name a few.

Even without the middle schools acting as true feeder programs for the high schools, there has been sustained success in certain sports because there have been other avenues for coaches and players to develop relationships and comfort in the systems those coaches teach.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with basketball.

On the girls’ side, of course, East has been a Top 10 program and North has been respectable, although overshadowed by the O’s recent back-to-back semistate appearances.

The boys’ programs at East and North, however, haven’t found that level of success.

Certainly, football has taken some athletes who might have otherwise played basketball.

But a big problem, as one coach lamented, is that neither school knows which players they’ll be getting until they’re freshmen.

That means a quick induction into that particular program’s style and expectations. That also means some players are forced to learn — or, in some cases, unlearn — skills they were taught by one coach because they conflict with what their high school coach expects.

It’s unlikely that BCSC would entertain the notion of specifying that, for example, Northside students go to North and Central students go to East. But perhaps a more focused AAU system could help bring Columbus boys basketball more in sync.

Maybe then we can have a basketball coach echoing David Green’s words … and success, for himself and his team.

Andy Proffet is sports editor of The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632 or