A top priority for Coach Ballinger this season is for his seventh grade basketball team to have fun. When asked what theme song Coach Ballinger thought would be symbolic of his team this season, he barely paused before coming up with the song Happy, by Pharrell Williams. “We want our players to develop, but we are still seventh graders. It has to be fun, otherwise they are not going to learn anything”, Ballinger said.
Coach Ballinger teaches sixth grade math in the mornings, and in the afternoons he teaches seventh and eighth grade math. Ballinger has coached boys basketball for two years at AMS. I wanted to know what inspired Coach Ballinger to become a basketball coach. “I didn’t get to play basketball as a youth. So, I kind of had to learn on my own. I learned from websites and playing at parks.” Undeterred by the challenge of never playing in his youth, Coach Ballinger taught himself the game of basketball, and made a decision to pass on the knowledge he acquired to five boys at a time on the court.
It takes an exceptional person to commit to coaching, and I wondered if Coach Ballinger had a coaching role model somewhere in his past. “I didn’t have a basketball coach, but my baseball coach I appreciated the most was Coach Hernandez. I liked how he would ask questions of the players. Instead of telling them he would ask them and make them figure out what was going on.” I talked with Coach Ballinger about his coaching philosophy in regards to motivating his team and promoting teamwork. “We try to motivate players with success rather than punishments and consequences. This keeps it from getting to stressful and people afraid to take chances which is not good for sports.” I can reveal to the seventh grade team that Coach would much rather reward than punish. If it was a secret, it isn’t now: stay active around the rim and the soles of your basketball shoes won’t be worn out by running laps.
Playing youth sports teaches many valuable life lessons, and Coach Ballinger couldn’t agree more. “I think we all make mistakes and sports are a great way to make mistakes and not let them beat us.” Ballinger hopes the team as a whole will focus more on player development, rather than wins or losses. “Our expectation is that each student work to contribute as much as possible, to encourage each other, and not be beaten down by a mistake”, Ballinger said.
The season is set to start and I asked Coach how the seventh grade team has been preparing. “We have been looking at some film, some powerpoints to get our offense set up. Luckily we have a lot of basketball experience on our team. Boys that have played together in club.” It sounds like Coach has a made team that can put the ball on the floor, and take it to the basket. My interest was piqued, and I had to ask Coach Ballinger how he planned on setting the table. How his team would offensively get more shots and defensively lower their opponents scoring percentage. Coach’s grin was cue for that’s on a need to know basis. If you are as curious as I am about Coach Ballinger’s hoop tactics, then plan on being at the season opening tournament, November 18th and 19th, in Paso Robles when AMS basketball hits the hardwood.
Kid Sports Reporter