While we at The Oaks Academy believe in sports as a good and worthwhile extracurricular endeavor, we also believe that they have the capacity to deliver important life lessons for our students that are complementary to the classroom. After a year without fall or winter sports, we were so happy to step back onto the courts for this winter basketball season.
The season opened in October and ran until early March, but it wasn’t long before the season started giving us highlights: a record turnout of players for both the boys’ and girls’ teams, learning opportunities from the first to the last games, and a competitive, fan-filled season-ending tournament.
This season for Boys’ Basketball teams saw an impressive turn out that allowed for the continuance of the In-House program alongside our conference teams. An astounding 50 players were organized into 5 teams for this division, which combined grades 6th to 8th among the teams.
Teams participated in the usual practice schedule and also had weekly Friday night tournaments against each other and teams from TAB Rec and Indy PAL that were a frequent after-school event for students and parents to attend. There was so much talent among our players, select in-house teams were given a unique opportunity to play against other school’s conference teams that would have otherwise been restricted to the JV and Varsity teams. In one such game against Orchard, a team was able to make it to a December ESPN highlight reel, ranking as #5 on the renowned SportsCenter Top Ten.
With added competition, added players, and coaches still devoted to providing an incredible experience, the In-House teams were able to build their knowledge, skill and passion for the game as they interacted with teammates from other grades – sharing experiences and building the important qualities of leadership, mentorship, and sportsmanship. In-house teams capped off their season with their own 7-team, single elimination tournament that saw an Oaks vs. Oaks Final game and Team Harris defeating Team Brooks in a close game that included an overtime period.
In a normal year, our JV teams are composed of 5th and 6th grade students; however, COVID safety protocols limited our teams to the Middle School grades this year. And without a season last year, our JV team saw these 6th grade students lace-up their sneakers and hit the court for the first time as an Oaks team.
With an emphasis on growing their skills and techniques, the focus for the season was to give players an opportunity to learn the sport from the fundamental level while building relationships with their teammates and challenging themselves in ways they hadn’t before, all the while having fun. And that is exactly what this season did! Supported by their Varsity and In-House teammates, the JV boys were able to enjoy themselves on and off the court as they faced challenges and rose to each occasion.
The season was focused on naturally progressing through the lessons that would be needed for success in basketball such as running plays, managing the clock, and adjusting to their opponent’s style of play. These lessons were evident as their regular season performance gave them an edge entering the IISL tournament where they were seeded 5th out of 12 teams and made it all the way to the semi-final round before losing to #1 seed Kingsway Christian.
The last time these 7th and 8th grade students would have played for the Oaks, they would have been in 5th and 6th grade. As former JV level players, these boys returned to the sport as leaders with the skills to have a successful season.
From the coaches perspective, this season for Varsity was about embracing the competitive nature of sports, building joy for the activity, and focusing on the habit of attention on and off the court. While the season was marred with hurdles that presented themselves in the form of injuries and illnesses, adaptability became a common theme for the season as the team was able to rise to each occasion.
These qualities that defined the Varsity team’s season were fostered by the players’ strength in habits practiced in the classroom, the devotion of coaches, and the relationships among teammates who were known and loved by each other, their coaches and the fans. A successful regular season earned the team a 2nd seed placement in the IISL tournament, which they took all the way to the championship game and beyond – ending the season with the 1st place trophy overhead and surrounded by love from the community.
Turnout for our Girls teams was impressive and record breaking with a total of 24 players split among 3 teams – JV, Varsity and Varsity Green.
For this small but mighty group of 6th grade players, the season was focused on learning the basics of the game, building their skills and having fun! As the future of our girls’ basketball program, our players focused on building good habits in dribbling, running, setting plays, and shooting the ball. Seeded 9th out of 11 teams in the IISL tournament, the JV team lost a close game against #8 Traders Point while they were cheered on and supported by their Varsity teammates, friends, and family.
With turnout being the highest it’s ever been, there was a need for an additional team this season. Unfortunately, other teams in our league and partner organizations were not able to put together an in-house group for girls’ basketball; regardless, our commitment to fulfilling the desire of everyone who came out to play prompted the creation of the Varsity Green team. Composed of 7th and 8th grade girls, this team practiced and traveled with the teams and were able to hit the courts for a 5th period that was added after the regulation game to start getting the experience needed for next year’s varsity team.
While the girls Varsity team also experienced a year off due to COVID, their experience differed from the boys’ team as this season was the first time playing organized basketball for a majority of the girls. With so many new players, the goal of this season was to familiarize the new players with the sport while developing and nurturing the growth of their skill and knowledge of the sport. Most importantly, the coaches wanted to encourage the players to build relationships among the teams and find joy in the activity.
Earning a 4th place seed for the IISL tournament, the varsity team had a home court advantage against #5 Greenwood. But even with a strong, supportive crowd on their side as they led most of the game, Greenwood was able to pull off a conference season-ending upset.
The IISL tournament was not the end of the season for the girls’ teams though, as they were able to come together on the court to end their season with an In-House Extravaganza. In this friendly competition, players were divided into 3 even teams and the coaches were pitted against each other for a few Oaks v. Oaks games.
At The Oaks, we know that it’s not the outcome of the game that’s important, but how the game was played. And this season, the girls on each team brought their heart and passion to a new sport – constantly adapting, improving, and bringing their best to the competition.
After a successful winter season, our coaches are already excited to see students return next year for more fun and improvement – and hope to see them and future players at our summer athletic camps for incoming 4th to 8th grade students. We also hope to see many familiar and supportive faces return to the stands for our spring sports which are beginning their seasons. To see the schedule of upcoming baseball games and track & field meets, please visit the Oaks Plus calendar.