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Jaala Henry

Basketball Lessons At USA Women’s U16 Trials

  • Author:
    Megan Fontenot
  • Date:
    May 22, 2015

Skills Session Video with Nancy Fahey, Amaya Adams and Aquira DeCosta
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Yesterday marked the first day of the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team Trials, the first day of skills and off-court sessions, focusing on performance and individual mental toughness.

During trials, all 149 players have attended skills sessions, as well as a seminar on sports psychology and a discussion panel featuring three Olympians talking about leadership and various aspects of basketball.

“It is really important, because this game is physical and mental; that is what this game is all about,” said Jaala Henry (Eleanor Roosevelt H.S./Riverdale, Md.), who also participated in the 2013 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team Trials.

The three skills sessions were led by Nancy Fahey of Washington University, who presented the group with different drills to better their individual games.

“I have coached long enough to know that there are drills that kids like, then there are drills kids don’t like and that is why there are coaches,” Fahey explained. “We understand that they will not like everything. As a coach, I also understand that every player wants to get better in a part of their game. If you can bring something new that they might not think about, whether that is ball handling or footwork, that helps them approach the game differently. A lot of times we are playing the game, but we also have to learn the game. You might be playing all summer, but you might also be repeating the same old habits. How do you change that to get better? It is important to play, but it is also important to focus on the skills fundamentals to get to the next level.”

Throughout three sessions, the athletes have been exposed to different things that will help them to become better athletes. Particularly, other athletes they might not have a chance to play against in their areas, and drills they plan to use at home.

“It is a new experience, where you get to play against better people than you,” commented Mariah Perez (Rise Academy Charter School/Newark, N.J.). “You get to be exposed to different coaches, drills, plays and athletes. I really don’t ever come out of Jersey, so it was a great opportunity to meet, train and play with other athletes from different states.

“I want to do more of the ball handling drills when I get home. The crossover, sweeping one was good. Another one that I will take is when you say shoot and you box out. I will apply those to my training and game.”

“I will definitely take back the work we did with the post moves we learned, ” said Henry. “I will repeat it so I can do it easily in games. Yeah, the 11th-man drill. I liked it. It was new; it was fun.”

Tyler Collins (Woodard Academy/Fayetteville, Ga.) has returned to trials to learn even more than she did in her last experience in Colorado Springs.

I learn new things with every session that we do,” said Collins. “I want to get better, so it is a great opportunity. It is a great experience.

Collins also said she related to the theme that was expressed by two-time Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (1996, 2000), Lindsay Mintenko (2000, 2004) and Yolanda Griffith (2000, 2004) during the, “Lessons From Olympians,” session.

The Olympians used anecdotes from experiences in their own careers to convey the message of setting goals, then learning from when those goals are not achieved. Also, the panelists discussed the sacrifices of athletes, such as riding a bus eight hours to attend practice, missing events because of your basketball schedule or balancing school and athletics, which, they stated, requires discipline.

“Last year, I did not make the team,” Collins added. “I felt that I should never give up on my dreams. I felt that I should keep trying, no matter what the results are. That is what made me come back.”

The mental aspects of basketball were discussed in the session with sport psychologist, Dr. Mark Aoyogi of the University of Denver.

“They talked a lot about being mentally strong,” said Desiree Caldwell (Johnson H.S./San Antonio, Texas).“I had heard about it before, but they really emphasized it. Coming from people whom I admire, I want to be in their position one day, it really hit stronger for me. If this is how they think, I need to adjust the way I think, so that I can make it where they have been.”

In the, “Strategies for Maximum Performance,” Dr. Aoyogi discussed the importance of trusting yourself and having confidence with examples of Maya Moore at a free throw line. According to him, Moore is confident in her shot from the line because she has practiced it many times, a concept Shaileen Woods (Paul VI H.S./Fairfax, Va.) is focusing on this weekend.

“Training brings out the confidence in you,” stated Woods. “For me, training is repetition. The more repetition, the easier the shot, the smoother the shot; that is confidence. It is all about confidence – the mental note that you can shoot.

“I have the confidence this weekend,” Woods continued. “I have a lot of confidence in myself because I have put in the time and work during and before the trials. The blood, sweat and tears of basketball.”

The trials process begins this evening, and all of the athletes will have the opportunity to display their confidence and put their skills learned to good use in full-court scrimmages.

Come Monday morning when the team is announced, regardless of the outcome, Fahey and USA Basketball hope all of the players return to their hometowns as better athletes all around.

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