WINTER PREP SPORTS GUIDE - Coaches rely on middle school programs to build skills

ESTACADA NEWS: DAVID BALL - Estacada High boys coach Kelly Norman stays connected with the area middle school coaches to lay a solid foundation or the Rangers program. It has been well documented on the positive things that youth sports can provide for kids. In a town like Estacada, what athletes experience at the youth level can be integral to their success when they get to high school — especially since kids could end up playing together from age six to age 18.

That is why many coaches at the varsity level are making sure that they are involved in the youth programs in Estacada.

Boys basketball coach Kelly Norman put on a youth basketball clinic back in October and had varsity players help run the camp with the hope of developing talent and a love for the game in the kids. Norman also hopes to have those kids that were at the camp showcase their skills during halftime of varsity games this season.

"It's important that we set the foundation for the program at the youth levels," Norman said. "We want to do the best we can to generate more interest in our youth teams and have the support of the community."

One of things Norman finds beneficial for his program is that he has two high school coaches down at the middle school level, with John James coaching the eighth grade team and Andrew Higgins coaching the seventh grade squad. James was an assistant on the varsity team last season and Higgins currently is the high school baseball coach.

"It's nice to have coaches with varsity experience down at the middle school levels," Norman said. "It helps us build continuity."

First year girls basketball coach Beth Rossos also talked about the importance of being involved with the youth programs.

"The seventh and eight grade coaches are awesome," Rossos said. "I have meetings with them on what type of plays and defense they should run so that kids will be more prepared for high school basketball."

Rossos held a four-day camp over the summer, which was open to girls grades 3–8. The camp focused on the improvement of individual fundamentals and the value of hard work, hustle, discipline, communication and positive attitude within the concept of team basketball.

"I really liked how camp went and how the girls really wanted to get better. It's so important to teach younger girls the skill of the game and it's fun to be apart of their development," Rossos said.

For Estacada wrestling, kids have a chance to get entrenched in the sport at a very young age. According to their website, athletes as young five get a chance to compete at the Estacada Mat Club.

"Having a mat club here is super cool to get kids interested in wrestling," Lohmeier said. "That's where it all starts. If you can be teaching the same thing at your mat club, once kids get to the high school, kids are ready to practice at a high intensity. You don't have to go through all the basics and re-teach everything…My son wrestles there and he's in preschool."

This may be Lohmeier's second year with Estacada, but he's already seeing the investment in youth wrestling pay off at the varsity level.

"All these kids have wrestled together since they were in the mat club," Lohmeier said. "Wrestling together for all those years definitely creates camaraderie…All the parents know each other and they support the kids really well."

Pick up our Winter Prep Sports Guide with previews for basketball and wrestling in our Thursday, Dec. 28, print edition.

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