Kendon McClaine is a dedicated coach for the Oak Park High School Girls Team. His number one goal is to play the next game better than the last and that’s what keeps him motivated as a coach. He encourages his players to be confident while playing the game. He dedicates his time to be a mentor to the youth and to remind them to enjoy the journey instead of letting life past. We speak with Kendon McClaine to understand his ambitious motives.

What is your philosophy of coaching?

I would say my coaching philosophy is centered around loving the game. If you truly love the game of basketball, it will always love you back. Staying after practice to work on free throws? That’s how you show love to the game. Going to the gym and working on attacking the rim from the high post? That’s showing love to the game. Now when you play in the next game and you’re able to make more free throws and finish better, I believe that’s basketball showing you love right back.

How do you handle the tryout and rejection process?

I hate the rejection process but it needs to be done sometimes! The best thing you can do for tryouts is to put your potential players through drills that are similar to game situations. Our Head Coach this year included a lot of time for players to scrimmage, which was GREAT! Scrimmages are where you’ll see who can really play and who really knows basketball. Drills are great and of course very necessary, but sometimes you’ll come across players who are drill masters, but can’t do the same things up and down the court.

What would you teach your players besides basketball? How would you do this?

How to communicate! Verbal and nonverbal communication skills are such an important tool to have when navigating through life, and it also will help you become a better basketball player.

What type of athlete are you looking for?

A hard worker who loves basketball. That’s all.

In addition to winning a championship, does your team have other goals? What are they?

I think our number one goal is to play the next game better than the last. We have a very young group who are getting better every day, they just need more playing experience! This year has been all about getting everyone as many reps as possible so that they can get that experience that they need!

Are your players on top of their school work?

Actually, yes! We’ve had very few problems with eligibility! Our school does a great job of working with students to make sure they’re getting everything they need out of each class.

What are the most important character building qualities to teach your players?

Confidence! This is something that our players struggle with at times, but I think that that’s just due to them being young and inexperienced! You begin to develop more confidence on the court when you KEEP playing. We have two varsity players named Delaney and Lily who are AMAZING athletes but started the season out a little unconfident in their abilities. After weeks and weeks of practices and games, they’ve been able to slowly figure out their game and what works for them! Now they both have the two highest 2FG%’s on the team! I Delaney has the most steals on the team, and Lily has the most rebounds! Our WHOLE team has had a complete shift in confidence since our pre season workouts and I’m so proud of them all! Every day they all continue to get better and do amazing things!

During practice, are you an energy giver? Is your enthusiasm contagious to the staff and players?

I am definitely the energy giver! You’ll always find me laughing with them or singing Drake songs during pre game warmups! I definitely like to keep the energy high at all times because our team deserves the best. During practice you’ll see me joke with them hit a quick dance just to keep everyone’s energy right! I’ve also been told that I’m the funniest coach at OP, but you didn’t hear it from me though!

Do you recognize and reward the players who do the little things? Do your players know that taking charges, diving for loose balls, and thanking a teammate for a great pass are just as important as scoring?

Team basketball is more than scoring, and that’s something that we emphasize amongst all 3 teams (Varsity, JV, and C team). Our players are learning more and more basketball every day, and they have seen in games how important that 1 assist might be or how that 1 steal can change the whole game! It’s not about just scoring and we definitely recognize those “pass first” players who make the unselfish play, or the shooter who took a quick second to adjust and take the high percentage shot, as opposed to draining a deep 3!

If the players on your team were your own children, what would you want them to get out of this experience?

I would want them to enjoy these moments! Championships will come, I promise. The number 1 goal is to build up a group of athletes so that when they’re off the court (for whatever reason) they will still know how to function in society. I think our school does a great job of supporting the athletic programs, so I would want to make sure that my “children” know that they are loved and we will always have their back!

I also want to take the time to shout out my hoopers and some other great people.

Special shout out to the hoopers on JV and Varsity that I work with daily! Lili, Delaney, Coleman, Sierra, Nyasia, Lex, Brek, Alicia, Maddie, Alyssa, Amari, Platz, Soph, Kate, Kelley, Bogart, Annabelle, Jayla, Jamia, and Kenzi! I’m so proud of y’all!

Super special shout out to the C team ballers! Hadlie, Charell, Yazmin, Lenare, E, and Kasiyah! Thank you for letting me come sit on the bench during your games and cheer y’all on! Each of you have grown so much and I can’t wait to work with ya’ll every day!
I want to thank your coaches as well! Coach T, Coach Allen, and Coach Head! You all have really made our basketball program shine as a whole! So glad that I met you all this year!

Shout out to our Head Coach, Coach Anderson, and our Varsity Assistant Coach, Coach R! Two of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with! Coaching with you all every day has been so much fun! Can’t wait for next season! Maybe we should get “Dream Team” shirts?

And lastly, big shout out to Coach Valadez, Bonnie, and the entire admin team! The support you all show to every athletic program in this school is so amazing! Thank you for everything you do!

Instagram @coachkendonmcclaine

Twitter @coachmcclaine

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