JASPER — Getting back into something after a long hiatus can be a challenge, as rust is prevalent for people who try to successfully get back into the swing of things.
Darrel Land can certainly attest to this. The assistant for Jasper’s freshman boys basketball team took time away from coaching after last being an assistant with the same team during the 2012-13 season, but the 1991 Springs Valley graduate and senior minister at Jasper’s Redemption Christian Church found his way back to coaching this year — even though things didn’t come to him overnight.
“I was a little bit rusty, actually,” Land said. “There’s some things about the game of basketball the way they teach it now that’s changed a little bit, and so, just listening and not jumping in quite as fast the first week or two at practice so I could listen to see — because it’s just amazing the little things that change about what you do on screens, things like that, we’ve just changed the way we coach that nowadays.
“And so, if I’d have just come in and jumped right in, I’d probably would’ve told them the wrong thing,” he continued.
Despite not having been a Jasper graduate, Land has a love for Jasper athletics and the Jasper basketball program, running summer camps in the town before officially coming here in 2000. He believes in people pouring into the community that they live in, with him feeling he was called here to start his church.
The church had grown and has kids had gotten older and were starting to get into sports, which contributed to him previously stepping down, but he recalled back to this past football season when head boys freshmen coach Andy Noblitt reached out to him.
“He said, ‘Hey, I’m back into coaching freshmen, and I really could use an assistant like you,’ ” he said. “And I love the opportunity to work with him. He’s such a great teaching coach, he’s probably as great as teaching basketball anybody I’ve been around, and it’s a chance for me to learn and just be there to help him out.”
The 1992 Jasper graduate and former athletic director didn’t have to do a whole lot of convincing on his end to bring Land back into the fold.
“He knew that as soon I was no longer the athletic director that if I got back into doing some basketball stuff that I would want him involved,” Noblitt said. “His energy is unmatched when it comes to caring for the kids and then also playing well in our basketball groups.”
Noblitt said that Land might’ve had some rust from a basketball standpoint, but not a coaching or personality standpoint.
Indeed, as somebody who does a lot of speaking, he sure can command attention and get his players to listen when he’s speaking, and he drew similarities to preparing for a game versus preparing for a sermon.
“First of all, you’ve got to think of the people,” Land said. “When you’re planning, when you’re writing, when you’re doing it — and the same is true in basketball. You have to think about the personnel you have and what do they need to hear and what do they need most?
“So, there’s a lot of that parallels, and then motivating people, encouraging people — those are two skill sets that are really necessary in both lines of work, to motivate and encourage people,” he continued. “Because people get beat down pretty hard, and they need more motivation, need more encouragement. And so, I feel like that’s what I can bring to the table at both roles.”
What Land is proudest of in his first season back as a coach is the growth the freshmen have shown since the start of the season. It takes a lot to teach players from two different programs — some of whom played at Jasper Middle School, others at Holy Trinity Catholic School, but he loves the effort and the growth on their ends.
“We scrimmaged the JV early on, and it was ugly,” Land said on Jan. 7. “And I believe if we were to bring them down and scrimmage them today, they would still beat us, but it would be, hopefully, a little more competitive matchup because our kids have learned how to play basketball a little bit.”
Unlike varsity, there’s no sectional, no state tournament for the freshmen to partake in, but there is a Southern Indiana Athletic Conference tournament for the freshmen. Land is hoping to win that, and also to prepare them for junior varsity basketball.
“It’s about the program,” he said. “It’s less about wins and losses as it is about getting them ready to be able to play next year — and we’re going to need a lot of these kids to be able to play next year.”