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Jennings Sunday: St. Mary's girls coach stresses improvement

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NORTH VERNON — It might have been a shaky start, but each member of the St. Mary’s fourth- and fifth-grade basketball team is standing tall and learning how to both win and lose.

When coach John Jameson held registration for the girls basketball team in September, only three fifth-grade girls signed up. Since that wasn’t enough for a team, the coach opened up the team to fourth-graders, and five more girls signed up. Then, six more fifth-graders changed their mind and decided to join the team.

Jameson ended up with 14 girls who wanted to learn the game of basketball.

He decided every one of them would have the chance to both learn and play the game.

Instead of playing only the best players to ensure a win for the team, Jameson decided to concentrate on teaching all the girls to be better players during practice.

When it was time for an actual competitive game, Jameson decided all of the girls would have a chance to play during the first three quarters. By Jameson’s plan, during the last quarter, only the best scorers play in hopes of gaining a victory.

“Not all the girls are equally talented, but all of the girls will have the opportunity to improve their skills,” Jameson said. “That is what competition is good for; it provides the opportunity to improve yourself. It is important that each girl is given the opportunity to play against a real team of real players.”

For 20 years he coached varsity basketball at Jennings County High School. Jameson’s experience shows during the daily practice of the fourth- and fifth-grade girls. It’s serious business to learn his game.

With the help of parent-volunteer Lorrie Mulls, Jameson directs the young girls to practice their skills with determination. They stand in well-disciplined lines waiting their chance to try to sink the ball. A critique of every movement is given to each girl when it is her turn to handle the ball.

The tall, 74-year-old Jameson moves quickly about the gym as he calls instructions.

“There is no shame in dropping the ball or missing the basket. There is only disgrace if you do not try to improve your skills,” Jameson said. “If your skills aren’t very good, then you work to make them good. If your skills are good, then you just work to make them better.”

“Coaching is an endeavor of constant teaching, and I am a teacher. I have been a teacher most of my life. That is what I do.”

If the girls weren’t sure about playing basketball when they signed up, they are sure now. Not one of the team members has dropped out.

So far, they have played two games and they have lost both of them, but their coach doesn’t miss a beat.

You can’t just learn how to act when you win; you also have to learn how to act when you lose. We’re doing just fine. We are working as a team. We are fine.”

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