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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Basketball Academy ready for year two
by Randy Pascal

Basketball is on the upswing, in Sudbury, and Kyle Beers and his crew with the Northern Lights Basketball Academy (NLBA) are more than a little thankful to be riding that wave.

The NLBA celebrated their first anniversary last month, garnering a greater appreciation for the nuances of a skills based program, conducted in an environment that clearly differs from the standard team coaching that Beers had become accustomed to at Lasalle Secondary School.

"Having the experience with coaching teams has helped me be more successful with the one on one format," explained the creator of the NLBA and current assistant coach with the Sudbury Five. "The benefit of the private training is that it really lets you hone in on certain skills."

"At the same time, when you are working one on one, you have to find ways to keep the energy up. How do you keep it intense and fun, and not become boring, for the next hour and a half? It's a learning curve."

While there is some uniqueness to the approach that would be taken for each and every athlete, Beers and company have also established a general framework for their workouts. "We usually use the first two to three sessions to look at the habits of the players, the skills, the postures, some of the mechanics they are using," he said.

"If we see something that might be setting him or her up for frustration in the future, that's when we are going to be breaking down those habits. You break it down and then build it back up."

While Beers launched this concept, relatively confident that there was a need in terms of youth basketball in Sudbury, some of his clientele has caught the former post-secondary athlete off guard.

"We have male and female athletes, and I'm not surprised about that," he said. "We have athletes as young as six, and I'm not surprised about that. I have athletes as old as 25, and I was a little taken aback by that."

"These are people that have played high school, maybe some college, into men's league, and they want to be held accountable for their game, all while having some fun doing it. Those are clients that we can really have some fun with, taking them through the more elite stuff."

Some day, perhaps, Cole Brown will reach that stage. For now, the 13 year old grade eight student with the Rainbow Board championship Lo-Ellen Park Knights intermediate team is happy just to be able to add a few new tricks to his game.

"The offensive moves, that surprised me, because I didn't expect that I was going to learn that," said Brown, the youngest of two children in the family, first introduced to basketball by a neighbourhood friend on the same street.

"One of my favourite things is a skip step, which is interesting. It's a hesitation move to make your defender move. It helps you make reads. I had to practice it a lot so that I don't travel."

"There were a lot of moves that I wanted to perfect," Brown continued, noting his desire to excel, ideally, at the position of point guard. "I'm working on seeing the court, so that you can pass and make plays. Dribbling with my eyes up definitely helps."

"With one on one, I can perfect things, change the little weird habits that I have." Taking the youngster through this session is NLBA Director of Player & Program Development, Alanna LaHay, a former member of the Cambrian Golden Shield women's basketball team.

"The most surprising thing for me is just how quickly these kids are learning everything that we are doing," stated LaHay. "It's fantastic. I'm giving some of the kids drills at a fundamental level and within a few weeks, they are already in the Learn to Train area."

While it may seem natural to focus only on the more offensive elements of the sport in one on one sessions, LaHay suggested that even a little creativity can lead to a more well-rounded presentation.

"The coach can be the one who is on offense, forcing the kids to look at your foot movement, you chest movement, you eyes, to understand where the coach is going," she said. "We try and make sure that it's an all-encompassing approach with both offense and defense."

The end goal, of course, is to integrate the teachings into the game setting. "It's not enough to have all of these tools in their tool box," said LaHay. "We teach them the "why's" of a particular skill set, understanding when to use a skill and how to use it."

The end result, on all of the above, is that Kyle Beers is at least as excited, if not even more, than he was one year ago this time.

"We have a huge number of athletes that are playing basketball in Sudbury, we have a lot of good coaches and resources and organizations, and we have a lot of parents that are supporting it."

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