Senior turns passion for game into project for school

Basketball and Jacen Hay go together like 3-point baskets and, well, Jacen Hay.

It's no surprise then that the student-athlete chose to integrate basketball into his senior project, helping to coach the middle school basketball program.

Hay has been playing the game since he was about 5 years old when he started in the peewee program. He and his core group of friends played together growing up, and he played on all the school teams and has made a name for himself on the Wrangell High School boys basketball team.

It was a natural choice for him to focus on basketball when it came to his senior project, and coaching was a way for him to give back to the sport he's learned a lot from.

"I really like basketball and I want to take things I've learned throughout my career to try to help the middle schoolers as much as I can to help them become better players," Hay said.

At first, it was a challenge working with the sixth, seventh and eighth graders, he said, because it was hard to get them to listen. Once Hay got to know the players and vice-versa, the more they listened to what he had to say. It also helped him to work with his former coach, Dustin Johnson, to help refresh his memory. Johnson has coached the middle school program for 11 years and coached Hay during his middle school years.

"Watching Dustin coach them reminded me of a lot of stuff that you kind of forget about until you relive it," Hay said. "You learn all these things that you kind of forget about over your career."

Johnson said Hay was a natural at coaching the younger players, approaching it like a professional.

"He's a responsible young man and he treated it like he signed up to get paid to do it," Johnson said. "It takes passion for the game. To coach, you have got to love it. You have to be able to relate to the kids. Those are things (Hay) has."

It's not the first time Johnson has had seniors help him with coaching as part of their project. He said he typically has one or two seniors who help him coach and he sees it as a rite of passage for the older basketball players. "They're awesome to have around because the kids look up to them and can relate to them more than to me."

The middle school basketball season is only six weeks long, and the team has a lot to learn in a short time. It's a "crash course," Johnson said, but it gives the students an opportunity to see if they like it and want to pursue the sport. On top of that, coaches only have an hour and a half each practice to hold the attention of the players, keeping them engaged no matter what happens during play. They have to look for teachable moments. Johnson said Hay had the ability to do that well, connecting with the young students.

The team traveled to Petersburg to play against its middle school team and won both games. They also played two at-home games against Petersburg, winning one and losing one.

Hay said when he sees the players around town now, they'll either say hi or wave. He took notes during each practice, getting to know each player's abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and will incorporate what he learned into his presentation for the project. He said he believes some of the eighth graders and others will get to be good players if they stick with it.

Watching the younger athletes play reminded Hay of when he played with his core group of friends, many of which still play with him on the high school team. They liked to goof around and have fun but ultimately took the game seriously and kept practicing.

Hay has been able to give back by coaching but he's learned a few things in return. "I learned how to coach. Each kid learns differently, so you have to figure out what coaching methods work for each kid," he said. He's also using the experience to make him a better teammate. "I want to be the best team player I can be. I want to get my guys the ball and keep them motivated, even if we're down."

After high school, Hay is planning on spending the summer fishing, then going to a trade school for welding and metal fabrication.

As for basketball?

"Maybe I could coach in the future, down the road," he said.


Reader Comments(0)