The arrival of young players poses unique challenge for team leaders
Sports | MacKenzie Newman for The Clarion
Taylor Hall is the Royals' leading scorer this year, averaging 24.3 points per contest. | Matt Kelley
A person is not born with character. It is developed over time through influential people and experiences. Sports have long been viewed as a way to develop character. They teach an athlete about overcoming adversity and the importance of being humble in success and gracious in defeat.
The men’s basketball program at Bethel is focused not only on winning, but also on assisting the players as they develop into future leaders. Beginning his seventh season as head coach, Jeff Westlund has adopted a twofold approach to coaching. He encourages the principles of character, respect and trust, and he drives home the idea of “boots on the ground.”
“Boots on the ground,” Westlund explained, is a military term that exemplifies the unity a team should have as it works toward a common goal. According to Westlund, the new theme for the 2012- 2013 season is “courage, honor and loyalty, and what these mean in the context of building men and building leaders.” He believes if the Royals play with honor, they will respect not only the game, but also their teammates and opponents.
Each year, a group of juniors and seniors form a leadership team. Westlund said these upperclassmen promote unity and deservingly receive much respect from their peers. Even with this leadership, the Royals still face the major challenge of learning how to integrate freshmen and new varsity players into a more intense atmosphere.
Nonetheless, Westlund and his veteran seniors expect the younger players to play an important role in the team’s success.
“This year we have a young team, but there are a lot of people who can step up,” said Kyle Zimmermann, a returning junior.
The Royals intend to build upon the familiar foundation that was laid in past seasons, teaching freshmen and new players the culture of Bethel basketball.
“Defending is really what our hallmark has been,” Westlund said. “Offensively, we build our game from the basket, inside out, and we look to our outside guys to knock down threes.”
Senior Taylor Hall has exemplified this inside-out philosophy, shooting 63.8 percent while leading the team in scoring. The 6-foot-8 forward has scored 146 points, leading the conference at 24.3 points per game.
As for the role of the new varsity players, Westlund is looking for each individual player to fulfill his personal role. In order for the Royals to be successful, players will need to be consistent and work together to form one cohesive unit. Westlund believes that once his players recognize and fulfill their roles, the Royals will experience the success his team has the talent to achieve.
The Royals face a competitive conference this season. To compete with tough teams, the Royals will have to be focused and disciplined in every game.
The beginning of the year has been rough for the Royals, starting out 2-4 and 0-3 in conference play. Bethel fans are hoping things will stabilize once younger players get more comfortable in their new roles.
Zimmermann and Westlund both believe that the Royals are capable of making the playoffs this season. However, Westlund was quick to point out that winning isn’t everything.
“Really, the objective is to get better and to believe in yourself,” he said. He regularly warns his players against letting the fear of failure keep them from playing to their full potential.
No matter the outcome of the season, Westlund knows that the team is playing for a reason bigger than itself. “This team belongs to God, and we’re going to control the things we can control,” he said.