The Leesville JV women’s basketball team is a place for high school students, especially freshmen, to become acclimated to playing high school basketball, prepare to play on varsity, and have fun.
However, the 2020-2021 season, or lack thereof, was different. I talked to Antoinette Council, the head coach of this team.
Council has coached the JV team since 2018. She has experience with most basketball players in this program and was excited for the season. The varsity coach, Harold Baldwin, is new to the program — this year was his first year coaching women’s basketball at Leesville.
Tryouts are a vital part of the start of any sports season. This year, Coach Council would’ve been a great asset to Coach Baldwin in choosing players for both teams.
However, a sports season during a pandemic presents challenges. Council has multiple children, some of whom were exposed to Covid-19 just in time for tryouts. Council was placed in quarantine for two weeks and missed tryouts.
Players were unaware of this issue — Howard said that she and her teammates “tried out with everyone else and then got chosen for JV,” just like a normal season.
Council was optimistic about this situation, saying she stayed in contact with Baldwin during the tryout process and was not surprised by any of the choices Baldwin made. Although Council was disappointed that some of her previous players moved up to varsity, she was happy for them.
This left ten players chosen for the Leesville JV women’s basketball team. Obstacles occurred early on for this team — 3 players left the team on the spot because they were not selected for varsity.
After Council was out of quarantine, the JV season was finally able to start. However, the JV team was only scheduled one practice per week by the athletic director.
This differs quite differently from varsity, who was able to practice every day.
As a full-time School Resource Officer and a mother, Council had to miss practices occasionally which presents challenges when there is only one practice per week because if Council had to miss one practice, their team was not able to practice for a full two weeks.
Council also expressed that practices were canceled regularly due to other events going on in the school that took priority over the JV team — “that happens a lot” said Council.
Desperate to get some practice in, JV participated in a few varsity practices. Additionally, Council received help from the JV boys coach, Benjamin Ingrim, to help coach the women’s team when she was not available. However, there was still a minuscule amount of practice.
“We didn’t have the time to practice and build team bonding, chemistry, and the understanding of how each other plays,” said Council.
Council felt this was the reason they lost their first game of the season versus Cardinal Gibbons.
This loss turned out to be the only game the JV team was able to play. “It was a loss, it was a bad loss, but it was a learning experience and unfortunately it was our only game that we had and we didn’t have a chance to bounce back and get stronger,” said Council.
Shortly after their first game, Council canceled the rest of the season. I asked Chloe Howard, who has played on the women’s JV team for the last two years, about the end to the season — “Too many people ended up leaving the team for us to have enough to play,” wrote Howard.
Remaining players seemed to be in the dark about why their teammates left the team — Howard thinks they could’ve had enough players for a team if there was a consistent coaching staff. “We would’ve come together more as a team,” said Howard, and in the end “it seemed like a lot of people just didn’t want to play.”
The JV women’s basketball team is the only basketball team at Leesville that does not have a large coaching staff. With only one coach, it is hard to build the consistent coaching staff that Howard alluded to.
Council had a different insight into why players left the team. “2 girls weren’t able to return immediately — they had to stay out for a while, due to other issues. One other player, had other things outside of school — home stuff — that took priority over this,” said Council.
“I was down to 3 or 4 players, and I didn’t know when the others were going to come back, so unfortunately we had to cancel the rest of our season.” Council explained.
I also talked to Council about how she felt about the end of the season. She said that it was “heartbreaking.”
Council said her main goal in coaching JV is to prepare players for varsity and get them ready for their high school basketball career — she was very disappointed that she did not get to do that for the underclassman that joined her team this year.
“The upside was at least I was able to get home on time to be with my own family, but I just hated that the season ended the way it did — no practices, no chemistry, no team bonding.”
The JV women’s basketball team fell apart before it could even truly come together, but “the season did have some potential and it was somewhat fun while it lasted” wrote Howard.