Athletes from the far south are usually more well-known for their prowess in the water or even on the field in some traditional codes but the boys at Fish Hoek High School are adding the court to the list of turfs they dominate as their under-19 basketball team went unbeaten this season and are now gearing up for the Cape Metro Top Schools tournament where they will get their mettle tested once more.
At the helm is Fish Hoek’s Mike Denne, a Natural Science and EMS teacher at the school, who has headed up the coaching staff and seen the game grow from strength to strength to the point where they only lost one match per season in the two years leading up to their current unbeaten run in their school’s division. His vision is to keep moving forward and see more coaches tackling the task of growing basketball at school level.
“I first played myself many years ago at Fish Hoek Middle School, when they had just introduced the sport and have always enjoyed the speed of the game as well as the tactical choices teams need to make to score points on one end of the court and defend on the other. There is so much strategy involved it sometimes feels like a game of chess, although each team arrives with very different pieces.
“The players in our squad have come up through the age groups and seen the results and matches of former first teams that I have coached. They know me as a coach and know what I expect from them and the style of play I want them to employ. I also know them and use what skills they bring to the table to fend off our opponents.
“I think that having a good relationship with your players is key to being a good coach. You need to earn their respect and show them that you know what you are doing and be able to implement your team’s strengths into a game plan,” he said.
That rapport will be vital come the Top Schools tournament, which kicks off this Saturday.
There the Fish Hoek boys will face off against some of the toughest competition the Cape Metro Schools Basketball League has to offer but, having faced some stiff competition in their own division, they know they have the necessary skills to upset even the best of opponents.
What it comes down to now is having those skills and strategies fire in unison on game day.
“With the regular season finished we have been focusing on Top Schools now and hope to do well at the tournament. We are not too sure who we will be facing just yet so I’m not sure what to expect. Our strength through the season has definitely been our defensive system, which forces our opponents to take longer-range shots than they are comfortable with and we will be employing those tactics to our advantage. We also have some outstanding shooters this season, who have have produced the goods throughout,” said Denne.
The school prides itself in nurturing the game at all levels and breeding quality from the younger ranks who can later slot into the senior teams. They have an under-19 girls squad too, although it is made up primarily of junior players. Denne says he hopes that more girls will get involved so that they can fill teams at all age groups and sees this as a viable goal in the future.
“Our talent search begins with the under-14s. When Grade 8s come into the school we encourage them to sign up. Training starts the first week of school and we are playing competitively by that second week already. Generally when they start, many have never touched a basketball before and our coaching staff does a stellar job of giving them the skills they need to master. By the time players reach under-19 level they have had a good three to four years of training and working for their spot in the first side.
“I thoroughly enjoy the setup we have at the moment but would love to see more schools developing basketball and entering more players and teams across the board. I think most schools could provide the facilities but would need good coaches to make them competitive.
“For us, this has been a while in the making and it could not have been done without the support of our incredible players, coaching staff, sports admin staff and teachers. They are the real success story here and it feels good to see things going right and to know that all their hard work has paid off, on and off the court,” he said.