"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Iowa Outlaws: The Journey Begins

I've talked about it some on this blog already, but Jaden is now part of an AAU basketball team - one of the 10 boys that gets to represent the 3rd grade age group of the new Iowa Outlaws. One of the leaders and coaches of the program spotted him at UNI basketball camp over the summer and told another coach that he thought Jaden would be a good addition to the team. That coach spotted Cody three months later at a flag football game and said something to him, but I thought little of it because we were leaving for Disney World that afternoon and my mind was on enough things already! But the week after we got back from Disney, that coach got my phone number from another mom and gave me a call - offering Jaden a position right then and there. We went to one Saturday morning workout, one Sunday afternoon practice, and committed later that week. We wrote a nice check to the Outlaws, talked to Jaden about the commitment we all were about to make, and then jumped in with both feet.

The invite actually came at the right time. Jaden was ready to work harder at basketball and learn more - he'd been getting frustrated with the rec leagues, and their one-month long program every winter wasn't enough for him. He wanted more than one hour on Saturday mornings, and he wanted to really compete - not just scrimmage. I knew he'd be challenged, and I knew it'd be more work than what he pictured going into it. I knew it would be not just a commitment for him, but one for our whole family, as well, but Cody and I both agreed that one of our jobs as parents is to do our best to allow our kids to explore their passions and talents. I did not want to be the one to hold him back because I wasn't ready or because of the cost or because of the time commitment it would be for us. I wanted him to have the chance to at least try it for the first year and then see if it would be something he would want to continue moving forward with every year after that.

So far, it's been exactly what I expected it to be. Our boy is working hard. The Outlaws typically have two practices a week - each an hour and a half to two hours long. They are pushed and challenged. They have conditioning workouts, drills, hard full-court scrimmages - and lots and lots of coaching. It's been so good for Jaden, and I've been very impressed with him. Many of the kids on the team had already been working out together and with these coaches for over a year already. Jaden is one of the few newcomers, and my chief concern going into it was how far behind he would be and how frustrating that might be for him. But he has more than held his own, fitting into the fold almost seamlessly, and I know that this hard work he's putting in is going to be a valuable experience for him whether he sticks with basketball or not. That's really one of the great things about athletics - the work ethic and teamwork and discipline you gain from participating.

As far as competition, the Outlaws compete in tournaments only - never single games. Their tournaments typically consist of a three-game schedule and fall on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Minimum travel is involved, but they are trying to keep the third graders mostly close to home. I believe the farthest we will travel this year is about an hour and a half away.

They've had two tournaments so far, winning their second one and earning first place medals - but have three tournaments coming up in December - three weekends in a row before a break over the holidays. It's so fun to watch these kids. We were blessed that Jaden's best friend Jack was invited to be part of the team, as well - and so our families are in this thing together. Jaden and Jack are now part of the same baseball, football and basketball team, and I can only imagine what these memories are going to mean to them years down the road.

Jaden plays post - a position that is very new and foreign to him - as he's always liked to practice out on the wings, shooting jumpers and three point shots (as most kids do). Coaches are working with him to get more aggressive and stronger under the hoop. In all honesty, right now Jaden's almost too nice of a kid to play post, but he's already improving a lot. Coach Ryan has told both Cody and myself that they really see the potential in Jaden so they're pushing him a bit. Sometimes Jaden takes that personally, but we told him that it's actually a compliment. That if his coaches are spending extra time with him and pushing him more, it's because they believe in him.

His defense has been excellent, an area he's really focused on since the two starting point guards on the team are excellent scorers, and that's the group that Jaden usually plays with during sub rotations. They put him in as a starter his second game with the team, and that's where he's stayed since. Although I'm sure as kids develop and improve, rotations and starters will change. He doesn't care one bit whether he starts or not, which makes me proud of him. All kids get equal playing time. After they won their tournament last week, Coach reminded them that defense wins championships. Jaden takes that to heart right now.

Warming up in the high school gym at 7:15 in the morning. This is quite the adventure!

I couldn't be happier with his coaches either. They each have a son on the team, have previous coaching experience, care about the kids and want to help them truly develop and get better. After two tournaments, we've been able to watch other coaches from other teams, and I can say without question that our coaches do more actual COACHING during games than we've seen from any other group.

Getting that arm in there to deny the pass! He must watch the Panthers play a lot! ;)

A Seth Tuttle scream after wrapping up their final game in the Waverly tournament. 3-0! :)

Jaden got to pick his number at the start of the season when he was fitted for his uniform. #10 for his hero Seth Tuttle. We made sure to let Seth know. :)

There will no doubt be more Outlaws postings and updates through the months - his season doesn't end until March! Hopefully my action photography skills will improve along with his basketball skills! One thing I've learned this year is that it's very hard to be a mommy watching your kid play sports and try to take pictures at the same time. ;) It's going to be a fun winter with our little #10. :)