News That Matters To Antelope County - Your News. Your Way. Every Day!
© Pitzer Digital, LLC
At 8 a.m. every Thursday morning, the shuffling of feet, bouncing of basketballs and shouts of encouragement can be heard in the Orchard High School gym.
“You guys are ahead of the game because you’re here right now, this morning, while everyone else is sleeping,” said boys basketball coach and Orchard athletic director Jim Schutt as he reassured the eight student athletes in the gym Thursday morning.
This is part of a new summer athletic program called Champion’s Club. Each morning, student athletes in grades three through 12 gather in both Clearwater and Orchard for weight training, agility workouts and individual sports Champion’s Club.
The idea for the new summer athletic program was developed in January. Both Schutt and Shelly Mlnarik, who serves as the athletic director at Clearwater, teamed up with the program in order to help students improve and build a better culture of winning.
Included in the program is weight lifting every morning from 6 to 6:45 a.m., agilities from 6:45 to 7:15 a.m., weights again from 7:15 to 8 a.m. and then the sports-specific Champion’s Club from 8 to 9 a.m., all of which are offered at both the Clearwater and Orchard sites.
During the Champion’s Club time, Mondays are dedicated to football and volleyball, Tuesdays for golf, Wednesdays for wrestling and Thursdays for boys and girls basketball. The program is designed to be flexible for student athletes — they can choose to attend the entire morning workout, including weights and agilities, or they can choose to attend certain parts. Attendance is also not mandatory for the summer program.
In the past, each individual sport had their own specific summer leagues that coaches would take the athletes to, which
they still do, but now each sport has a specific day on which to work out at the schools.
“To me, I think anything that we offer extra and above is beneficial as long as the kids and the parents buy into the opportunity and promote and push their kids to get out of bed and get up to it,” Schutt said.
Schutt sees this program as geared more towards the elementary and jr. high kids who don’t have any sports programs in the summer, and it’s an opportunity for the athletes to become exposed to the sports.
“I kind of like the elementary and jr. high kids there because they’re kind of the ones that are really learning the fundamentals...I think instilling it at this early age is going to be beneficial down the road,” Schutt said.
The program has been running since school has been out, and Schutt thinks it’s going well, although he had hoped to
see more kids attend. “You always wish you could have more numbers. You get maybe eight or 10 kids, but I guess those are the kids that want to work and get better,” he said.
Schutt and the rest of the coaching staff have been relying on word of mouth to gain more attendance. “We’re not having the kids
up here running for 20 minutes doing full court sprints and things. We’re doing good drills,” Schutt said. “It’s an hour so it’s not like a long time...We kind of go at it pretty quick and hard, and then we’re done.”
Besides improving skill, Schutt explained another benefit to the summer athletic program is keep the kids out of trouble. “A lot of idle time sometimes turns into problem time,” he said. “I think that it’s a lot better to have them here maybe in the evening for an hour shooting around and working on stuff than it is driving around and getting into who knows what.”
Starting after the 4th of July moratorium, the basketball teams will have open gym in the evenings where the athletes can come shoot around and work on skills. Along with a set time for open gym, Schutt says anytime a kid wants to come in and shoot around, he will have the gym open.
Schutt also commended the rest of the coaching staff at Orchard and Clearwater for being flexible and putting in the time and effort to make this program work. “This is our first year, so we all knew going in it takes a lot of time, and we have a dedicated coaching staff that’s been good and buying into it.”
Schutt said he will be curious to see the difference between the athletes who consistently attended the summer program and those who didn’t come regular season. “I can’t help not believing it’s not going to help them. I just think they’re more ahead of the game than maybe the other kids who aren’t participating,” he said.
Schutt also says the summer program is improving his coaching as well. He has been looking hard for new and different drills for his athletes and says it’s been fun and the kids enjoy it and look forward to the new drills.
The program will run until the end of July. After, the coaching staff will evaluate the program and how they can improve for next year.
“Now, I don’t want people to think that we’re doing this and then all of the sudden in year, we’ll be state champions. I’m not saying that can’t happen, but that’s also, I don’t think, an expectation of this,” Schutt said. “I think it’s just to build our kids into better athletes, the culture, and being able to be up here with their peers and listen to the coaches and things like that, so I think that’s a positive. Hopefully in the long run, it pays off .”