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The City Journals

Eisenhower teacher thinks outside the coaching box

Feb 13, 2020 03:49PM ● By Greg James

Eisenhower Junior High PE teacher discusses strategy during a recent basketball game. The team’s assistant coach was a student. (Photo courtesy of Eisenhower Jr. High.)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

Junior high school basketball is not the NBA, but one teacher is giving opportunities for her players and students to learn about the game.

“There was a good kid that I have taught in PE, and I knew he was a good kid,” Eisenhower Junior High physical education teacher Kayla Richmond said. “He was not quite good enough to make the team, but I knew he could be an asset to the team.”

She asked him to help coach. He sat next to her as an assistant on the varsity team and led the JV team (his name is not disclosed at the request of the school).

“The way he interacted with the other kids was great,” Richmond said. “He was positive and complimentary. I wanted him to still be part of the team.” 

Parents appreciated the team’s direction.

“She is definitely thinking outside the box,” Melanie (a former player’s parent) said. “She is a phenomenal teacher and keeps the kids interested. To let a student take on a roll like this is a teacher going above and beyond.”

Richmond has always allowed her varsity team captains coach the JV team. 

“I was the adult supervisor, but I let the students call the plays and make the substitutions,” she said. “They also reminded them of the plays and their jobs in those plays. I sat back and let them take over for the most part. The players are supportive. Most of the JV team were either friends anyways. I stepped in if the kids got out of hand.” 

The girls team at Eisenhower won the district championship for the second year in a row. The boys team did not fare as well, but Richmond still felt is was a good year.

“The boys did not have a fantastic season as far as record,” she said. “It was a brand-new team, and we did not win as many as I had hoped, but a lot of kids don’t play club. In junior high basketball, Olympus and Evergreen dominate almost every year.” 

The athletic program in the Granite School District is to provide exercise, recreation, competition and fun to participants. The programs are designed to enhance the students' academic experience.

“I think sometimes you have to step back and let the kids figure it out,” Richmond said. “Sometimes, I observe to see who steps up and who doesn’t. I ask the players for feedback on what we did well and what we need to work on. I think it is important to have a community feeling so that the players feel heard. I am not perfect, but I like having the older players involved. It builds a bond.” 

She felt like her student participation idea was a success this season.

“These kids are very basketball smart,” she said. “This season, the one boy really liked the Phoenix Suns, and we razed him about it, and at the end of the season, he said, ‘Thanks for letting me coach alongside of you.’ It was really fun.”