Changes aim to help everyone

Chris Steele
Jaxson Ernst drives for a layup during a drill at the Geneseo boys’ basketball camp.

Knowing and accepting certain limitations is a part of growing in any sport.

Scott Hardison and Brad Storm both saw that the Geneseo high school boys’ basketball program was being hurt by the limitations of the old middle school basketball system and something needed to change.

Splitting Geneseo’s middle school players into two balanced teams (Green and White) to compete against larger schools in the Hartland Conference was hurting development and discouraging players from wanting to continue playing.

“A big part of it was kids not enjoying it because they were getting beaten a lot by playing the tough Quad City conference,” Storm said. “Schools that were bigger only had one team, but we were a smaller school splitting our kids into two teams. We were at a real disadvantage.”

As a result, the program headed in a new direction during the 2017-2018 season.

“We aren’t two different teams now,” Hardison said. “We are one program with some different levels.”

The solution was a hybrid of a few variations they had tried in the past.

The top 8-to-11 players competed against the toughest competition on the conference schedule, while the players who didn’t get as much playing time would have the opportunity to play games against similar skill level teams like Orion, Annawan, Cambridge, Erie, and Prophetstown.

Faced with a small seventh-grade class two years ago, the Geneseo Middle School girls’ basketball team did something similar.

Since the team was too small to split, it was decided the players who were not getting enough playing time would play additional games against smaller schools.

Splitting up the teams also created a disparity in skill levels in practice.

The more polished players wouldn’t be tested, while the kids who needed more time to grow were discouraged by not being able to compete and learn.

With the help of Kevin Reed, Nathan Odell and Darin Pardoe, both coaches saw real potential from what they saw during the first year.

The new system allowed players to apply what they learned in practice without being overwhelmed in games.

Another benefit of being one team is that the team gets to grow together as friends.

“There was a lot of disconnects when the teams were split,” Storm said. “Now we have one team that practices together plays with each other roots for each other. We are hoping that leads to more kids wanting to play at the high school level.”

But it will take time and a few tweaks to see if the program is successful.

“I don’t think you can really test it even short term until we see next season and see how many kids come back out,” Hardison said.

Because the long-term growth of the program is the ultimate goal.

“You can’t judge it on one or two years,” Storm said. “We thought there were some really good things about it after year one. We already saw a few things that we need to tweak after year one. It’s going to be a valuable thing if we keep tweaking it.”