Student view:

Billy Wetzel & Lockie Woods: Shooting hoops, changing lives

Sophomores Billy Wetzel (history) and Lockie Woods (history/criminal justice) are both Social Science Scholars involved in coaching the East Lansing youth basketball league.

two coaches and basketball team huddled and talkingAfter a couple months at MSU, Lockie and I both recognized that we missed being involved with athletics. Both of us had participated in sports for years, and this desire to get back into the sports world led us to look for volunteer opportunities in sports.

We agreed on becoming youth coaches because this was the next best alternative to playing sports. Most of our own coaches had been great role models, and we wanted to fulfill that role for someone else.

Because it was nearing the end of fall and because we both had some experience playing basketball, we decided to look for basketball coaching jobs. I was lucky enough to make a connection with Jim Jennings, head of the youth basketball league in East Lansing, and he let me know that there was one team of fourth-grade boys that needed a head coach. Lockie and I readily agreed to take this team on and to coach the boys together.

While Lockie and I both are highly competitive individuals and wanted our team to have success on the court, we decided to primarily focus on ensuring that the players had fun and improved their skills and not on winning games. This approach enabled us to stay positive throughout the season, because even though we did not win very often we still saw noticeable improvement as the season progressed.

Furthermore, this approach allowed us to remain true to why we became coaches in the first place -- sports were something that we had enjoyed growing up and we wanted to pass that experience on to others. We quickly learned that managing the different interests of the kids and the parents was going to be difficult, with many of the parents looking for wins right off the bat.

Furthermore, the attention span of fourth-graders can be lacking at times, which meant it was extremely important to keep the kids focused and on task. While these challenges showed up time and time again, the kids were clearly improving with each and every game.

This culminated in us playing our best game of the season in the very last game, and ultimately getting a hard-fought victory. This was a great moment for everyone involved, as everybody finally saw all the hard work they had put in over the past few months pay off in an awesome win. Seeing the bright smiles on all the players' and parents' faces truly touched us and made us feel that all the effort we have put into this was truly worth it.

Provided that our schedules work again next year, Lockie and I intend to return as coaches because of the positive experience we had this year.