Logan Stutz is itching to get back out on the basketball court.
Sure, all things being equal, I suspect the head coach of the Sudbury Five would like nothing more than to be preparing practice sessions, leading his team into battle for a third season of National Basketball League of Canada play.
But he's not about to gripe if his upcoming hoop experience involves a notably younger crowd, working with boys and girls, aged eight to thirteen, in fall academy workouts that will run from September 24th through until the end of October.
The simple truth is that his passion for the sport, right across the entire spectrum of play, is something that hits very much close to home for Stutz, a native of Kansas City, Missouri.
"People might think there's a big difference, for me, but where I was brought up, my dad helped coach and train and do a lot of things at the same level that I am doing now, whether that was with professional athletes or college level or what have you," said the 32 year-old former MVP in the league in which he now coaches.
"But my mom is a pre-school teacher and I find that I have inherited great traits from both of them. Quite honestly, sometimes I enjoy just getting out with the younger kids, seeing that passion they have. If they accomplish something as small as a lay-up or a dribble, they can enjoy it so much, it means so much to them."
"I love seeing that in kids."
When it comes to dealing with the pros, those takeaways, from a coaching perspective, are altered, just a little. "There is nothing wrong with developing older guys," said Stutz. "Even if they don't express it as much as the kids, they know that we are helping them out."
In many ways, the messaging, from his end, is the same. Young and old often find motivation through similar interaction with those who are guiding them. "The thing that I reinforce with them, as a coach, is just confidence," said Stutz. "Giving them the confidence to understand they are learning, they are growing, they are developing their skills."
"We hope that this is something that we leave them with that at some time, they can expand on."
And where some might find frustration in working their way through the necessary precautions and health measures that are allowing sport to move forward, in at least some shape or form, Stutz sees it as nothing more than an expected part of the job.
"I need to make sure that they are learning in a safe environment, that we are following protocols which are changing every week, every month," he said. "It is tough, because we have to adapt to whatever is going on. There will be some adaptive learning, there will be some adaptive learning when we are in training camp this year. I think we're seeing it in the NBA, we're seeing it in sports across the world."
"But as a head coach, you have to be able to adapt to any circumstance, to anything that is thrown at you."
In the end, Stutz leaves us with a message of safety and surprises. "I will never compromise the safety of these kids or my players, but I think we can still accomplish a lot of our objectives and goals that we set forward, whether it be as a kid learning a skill, or the Sudbury Five trying to win a championship."
"And I think we could have some fun surprises," added Stutz, teasing prospective registrants. "There will be some new American and Canadian faces that will be at the academy, players that people have not seen before."
All of which adds up to a little extra basketball excitement, Sudbury-style.
"Things are starting to pick up, which is why I am so excited to get back on the court and run the academy," he said. "I'm excited to get some players in here, as soon as possible, and excited to put a really good product in front of Sudbury fans, as soon as is safely possible."
Academy Training Tidbits: The weekly sessions will take at the Sudbury YMCA, on Thursday evenings, with an initial group from 5:00 until 6:00 p.m., and a second group from 6:15 until 7:15 p.m.
Participants have the option of signing up for either session, however siblings and bubble families must all sign up for the same session. The cost to register is $145 (+ HST), with registrations being accepted at https://swse.ca/product/fall-2020-five-adademy/ - spaces are limited.
The Sudbury Five and the YMCA will be following all public health regulations, including increased sanitization, temperature checks and screenings.