2017-11-30 / Sports

Fundamentals, Confidence Are the Focus of Junior High Basketball, Says Kissinger

By Kevin R. Hess


The St. Ignace Saints seventh grade girls basketball team finished their season 8-4. Members of the team include (back row, from left): Tabitha Shepard, Haley Allers, Riley O’Rourke, Heidi Dorenbecker, Mercedes Convery, Head Coach Robin Kissinger, manager Joycelyn Lee; (front) Haleigh Mattson, Mia Martin, Kensie Weber, and Kasandra Gugin. (Photograph provided by Robin Kissinger) The St. Ignace Saints seventh grade girls basketball team finished their season 8-4. Members of the team include (back row, from left): Tabitha Shepard, Haley Allers, Riley O’Rourke, Heidi Dorenbecker, Mercedes Convery, Head Coach Robin Kissinger, manager Joycelyn Lee; (front) Haleigh Mattson, Mia Martin, Kensie Weber, and Kasandra Gugin. (Photograph provided by Robin Kissinger) The St. Ignace basketball program has enjoyed a run of success for the better part of 20 years. The success, coaches say, relies on the development of a program, from elementary camps and junior Saints basketball to the junior varsity and varsity levels. The Saints style of play is not only taught to the students by the coaches, but also by the older players teaching the younger ones. The Saints JV and varsity players serve as coaches and mentors for younger players throughout the season. Some of them come back after they’ve been graduated from high school to teach and mentor during summer camps. Through the program, coaches say, students are taught about teamwork, dedication, sacrificing for the team, and bettering themselves every day. The athletic achievements have been many, but it’s the character development that has the longestlasting impact.


The St. Ignace Saints eighth grade girls basketball team finished their season with a perfect 12- 0 record. Members of the team include (back row, from left): Bailey Ryerse, Leah Haw, Head Coach Doug Ingalls, Brooke Brandstrom, Ella Adams, manager Teagan Ferguson; (front) Skylar Seccia, Kylee Peters, Helena St. Onge-Kissinger, Mariana Zaragoza, and Morgan Odle. (Photograph provided by Robin Kissinger) The St. Ignace Saints eighth grade girls basketball team finished their season with a perfect 12- 0 record. Members of the team include (back row, from left): Bailey Ryerse, Leah Haw, Head Coach Doug Ingalls, Brooke Brandstrom, Ella Adams, manager Teagan Ferguson; (front) Skylar Seccia, Kylee Peters, Helena St. Onge-Kissinger, Mariana Zaragoza, and Morgan Odle. (Photograph provided by Robin Kissinger) While the junior varsity and varsity teams are set to tip off their seasons next week, the middle school girls have been competing for the past two months. The seventh and eighth grade girls recently completed their 12-game seasons, as the eighth grade team finished with a perfect 12-0 record, and the seventh grade team finished 8-4. Middle school coach Robin Kissinger said the main focus with junior high athletes is fundamentals and confidence.


The St. Ignace seventh and grade teams finished their 12-game seasons Monday, November 20. Before Monday’s game, the eighth grade team was 11-0 and the seventh grade team was 7-4. Here, the seventh grade team warms up before a game against JKL Bahweting. Pictured are: (clockwise, from left): Kensie Weber, Haley Allers, Kasandra Gugin, Mia Martin, Riley O’Rourke, Haleigh Mattson, Heidi Dorenbecker, Mercedes Convery, and Coach Robin Kissinger. The St. Ignace seventh and grade teams finished their 12-game seasons Monday, November 20. Before Monday’s game, the eighth grade team was 11-0 and the seventh grade team was 7-4. Here, the seventh grade team warms up before a game against JKL Bahweting. Pictured are: (clockwise, from left): Kensie Weber, Haley Allers, Kasandra Gugin, Mia Martin, Riley O’Rourke, Haleigh Mattson, Heidi Dorenbecker, Mercedes Convery, and Coach Robin Kissinger. “We focus more on energy level and fundamentals like ball handling as opposed to set plays,” said Mr. Kissinger. “At this level, we’re really still teaching them how to play basketball.”


Robin Kissinger, current coach of the St. Ignace seventh and eighth grade girls basketball teams, has been hired as the Saints’ new junior varsity boys basketball coach. Coach Kissinger has coached basketball at various levels in St. Ignace for the past 12 years. He says he is eager to coach at the high school level and is looking forward to the new challenge. Robin Kissinger, current coach of the St. Ignace seventh and eighth grade girls basketball teams, has been hired as the Saints’ new junior varsity boys basketball coach. Coach Kissinger has coached basketball at various levels in St. Ignace for the past 12 years. He says he is eager to coach at the high school level and is looking forward to the new challenge. Mr. Kissinger has coached at various levels in St. Ignace for the past 12 years and after the junior high season is over, he will take the reins of the boys junior varsity team. No matter the level, Mr. Kissinger loves basketball and loves to coach. There are 10 eighth-graders and nine seventhgraders on this year’s teams. At the junior high level, all players see significant playing time to acclimate them to competing in game situations against other teams. Mr. Kissinger says one of the main coaching points is to see the players take what they’ve learned in practices and apply them in the games.

“I remember one of the girls coming to me after a skill drill in practice and asking, ‘Coach, am I supposed to do this in the game?’ I said, ‘Yes, that’s why we’re doing it.’ Game situations are different than practice and it’s something the players have to get used to.”

Mr. Kissinger says that success is gauged by more than wins and losses, and that success can mean different things for different students, especially at the junior high level. For instance, if a player has been working hard to make a layup with their non-dominant hand and is finally able to do it in a game, Mr. Kissinger considers that a success.

“It could be individual skills or moves that kids have been working hard on, or just seeing them develop good habits,” he said. “If someone makes a great pass, even if it doesn’t lead to a basket, we want to highlight that.”

Part of Mr. Kissinger’s coaching philosophy with younger players is to emphasize the positive and not the negative. He keeps statistics such as points, rebounds, assists, steals, and deflections, but does not keep stats for turnovers. At this level, he says, players are going to make mistakes, but he doesn’t want them to focus on not making mistakes. He wants them to build confidence and not be afraid to fail sometimes.

“I don’t let them use the word ‘can’t,’” he said. “’Can’t’ means you won’t try.”

Mr. Kissinger also aims to end every conversation with a player or the team with a positive remark.

“The last thing we do has to be successful,” he said. “We always end practice with a made basket, so that the last thing we do is a positive.”

Saints 8th Grade Season Statistics:

Kylee Peters – 150 points, 42 rebounds, 49 assists, 88 steals, two block, 47 deflections

Brooke Brandstrom – 95 points, 66 rebounds, eight assists, 29 steals, 17 blocks, 32 deflections

Ella Adams – 114 points, 40 rebounds, 19 assists, 76 steals, two block, 28 deflections

Helena St. Onge-Kissinger – 82 points, 37 rebounds, 32 assists, 60 steals, four blocks, 36 deflections

Skylar Seccia – 47 points, 26 rebounds, 10 assists, 23 steals, nine blocks, 15 deflections

Morgan Odle – 16 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, 16 steals, 18 deflections

Bailey Ryerse – 16 points, 27 rebounds, one assist, eight steals, 14 deflections

Mariana Zaragoza – 12 points, 28 rebounds, five assists, 31 steals, four blocks, 29 deflections

Leah Haw – six rebounds, 38 rebounds, three assists, three steals, two blocks, eight deflections

Saints 7th Grade Statistics (Through 7 Games):

Tabitha Shepard – 75 points, 34 rebounds, 13 assists, 43 steals, five blocks, seven deflections

Kasandra Gugin – 104 points, 42 rebounds, 26 assists, 73 steals, three blocks, 14 deflections

Riley O’Rourke – 55 points, 70 rebounds, six assists, 17 steals, 17 blocks, 15 deflections

Mia Martin – 44 points, 29 rebounds, 14 assists, 21 steals, nine deflections

Haley Allers – 34 points, 43 rebounds, three assists, 33 steals, one block, 13 deflections

Mercedes Convery – 13 points, 28 rebounds, four assists, 11 steals, four deflections

Heidi Dorenbecker – 21 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists, 30 steals, 17 deflections

Haleigh Mattson – two points, six rebounds, nine deflections

Kensie Weber – nine points, eight rebounds, five assist, eight steals, two blocks, nine deflections

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