Coaching our Mini Athletes – Jakk Walsh
When a young Jakk Walsh started his Basketball Victoria journey through Aussie Hoops, he was this kid. Young, eager and completely unaware of how much it would influence him. The basketball courts of Eltham, in Melbourne’s North East, were his stomping grounds. A decade later, he’d be the king of the court.
“Funnily enough I started basketball through the Aussie hoops program at Eltham Basketball Association,” Walsh said. “Then I moved on to play domestic basketball for Eltham and eventually Friday nights once I was of age.”
They say a good coach will help their players see what they can be rather than what they are. These words couldn’t be more applicable to the first chapter in Walsh’s coaching story.
“I started out as a coach for the Eltham program when I was 13. My two coaches, when I was in Under 14s, were running the Eltham program at the time. They asked me to have a trial session to see if I enjoyed coaching and, I’ve been coaching the program ever since.”
Things seemed to accelerate from this point according to Walsh. In 2017 he became the coordinator of Eltham’s Aussie Hoops program. Two years later his coaching abilities were recognised nationally as Walsh was awarded the 2019 Aussie Hoops Coach of the Year.
“Coach of the Year wasn’t something I expected, but I’m definitely grateful for it! It’s always great to receive recognition for doing well at something you’re just very passionate about. It was crazy for Lauren Jackson to announce it!”
Now, in his early 20s, bragging about having a connection to an iconic national basketballer is just one of Walsh’s many talents.
The rest boil down to his ability to manage, direct and run one of Victoria’s larger Aussie Hoops programs. As the Program Coordinator, Walsh isn’t just trusted to coach the Aussie Hoops athletes; he is relied upon to coach the coaches.
“We run a pretty big program at Eltham. In 2019 we had over 1000 participants across the whole year, all of whom were looked after and trained by 15 coaches. Our oldest coach is 22 and our youngest is only 15,
“We also have a couple of development coaches who are about 12 to 13 years old that we have taken on to give them some experience to then use for their future coaching.”
Walsh said Eltham’s superstar athletes usually start young with programs such as Aussie Hoops. For this reason, he believes the importance of Aussie Hoops is demonstrated through the players’ actions.
“We run eight sessions per week at a variety of venues, and a big percentage of our kids move on to play domestic for the Wildcats once they’re at the minimum age, and many even go on to join the representative program.”
“It’s a weird feeling seeing someone you coached in Aussie Hoops wearing a Friday night uniform! However, it makes you realise the influence you’re having on the next generation of basketballers,
“My aim is focused on using basketball to give kids confidence that they can then use in other areas of their life. It can be through basketball, but Aussie Hoops is a great chance for kids to develop social and motor skills too.
“Basketball is a challenging sport, so I think it really benefits the kids to see their own improvements.”
2020 has been bombarded with headlines highlighting the prolonged postponement of sport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a barrier unlike anything Aussie Hoops as seen before; yet a challenge that can be overcome.
One headline the Victorian basketball community needs most right now has inevitably been delivered by the actions of coaches like Walsh.
It reads: ‘coach delivers hope in a time of distance’.
Since restrictions of basketball in relation to COVID-19, Eltham has been an association that has broken down the barriers of social distance to still connect, mentor and train their athletes of all ages.
Walsh and his Aussie Hoops coaches have provided material for their players to stay active and remain passionate about a sport they’ve just begun to love.
“The coaches and I have all missed seeing the kids,” said Jack. “But we’ve been doing what we can regarding planning for the return and have been able to put out some videos online. We’re all hoping to get back as soon as possible.”
While for some these uncertain times may hinder what we see possible for the future, Walsh’s outlook on Aussie Hoops has never been clearer.
Like all involved in the influential program, we want nothing more than to return to the sport as speedy as possible. Walsh believes there’s no reason when we do return, we can’t build towards a version of Aussie Hoops with endless potential.
“I personally hope that Aussie Hoops continues to grow as it has been,” Walsh said. “One change I wouldn’t mind seeing is some programs improve on their ability to cater for the engagement of kids with disability. I think this is a really important factor that is sometimes overlooked,
“For the Aussie Hoops program overall, I believe there are lots of benefits for the kids own development when playing basketball. It certainly helps having ambassadors like Lauren Jackson and Matthew Dellavedova for the kids to look up to.
“I think basketball has been growing in Australia for a long time now, and it’s important for its popularity that kids are getting involved from a young age – now more than ever…”
For Aussie Hoops tools, visit our online training videos in collaboration with local delivery centres.
You can also find your nearest Victorian Aussie Hoops centre here.
Reaching high keeps a player on their toes… especially when it’s an Aussie Hoops kid imagining they’re playing with seven-foot NBA stars.
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