As Canada Basketball High Performance Coach Mike Mackay drove through George Town’s school district en route to his free two-hour clinic held Monday (4 February) at the John Gray High School Gymnasium, he couldn’t help but notice the bustling school yards.
“There were tons of kids, with their button-up shirts and pants, and they are all crowded around the hoop playing basketball,” said MacKay. “The passion for the game is here, and I hope I can spark a few coaches to try something different to spark something else.”
Mackay says the growing potential of basketball in the Caribbean, along with a strong relationship with clinic organizer Sefu Bernard is what brought him to Cayman for a fifth time.
“Sef is such an energetic guy,” said Mackay. “I travel the world to teach basketball, if there’s anything I can do to give back, I will, because the game has given so much to me.”
The duo previously worked together as part of Canada Basketball’s player development programmes. Bernard, a Cayman resident who recently launched ‘ACX Basketball Cayman’ in efforts to elevate basketball coaching in the local sports community, says the turnout was an encouraging indication of the investment Cayman’s amateur sports leaders are willing to make in their athletes.
“I was thrilled with the attendance at the coaches clinic,” said Bernard. “It really shows that there’s a vibrant community of coaches, teachers, and parents who are eager to learn so that they can get better for the kids that they serve.”
As a well-traveled ‘Master Coach Developer’ (MCD), Mackay makes his living instructing the world’s best amateur players and coaches. He said the ones that attended Monday’s clinic , roughly 50-60, were both inquisitive and engaged.
“I was so impressed with the turn out today,” said Mackay. “You can tell by the questions, people are really engaged, they want to do the right thing.”
The clinic, which featured various fundamental, skill-based techniques narrated by Mackay’s energetic analysis, offered insight into the importance of what he calls ‘long-term athlete development’.
“Take Icelandic football, you need to get as many people active as possible,” said Mackay. “When you get to high-performance, you still have a pool to choose from.”
Mackay added, building a talent pool for long-term success on the international level comes from a collective approach to promoting sports at a young age, while cultivating engagement.
“If you try to pick who will be the 12 best players when they are 7-8 years old, they’ll never make it through the system,” said Mackay. “If you pick all the kids on the island who are actively engaged, and can find them a role, and they enjoy it, you have an opportunity to find players who will stay with sport for life.
For a population like the Cayman Islands, roughly 61,000, where kids play multiple sports 12 months a year, Mackay says there are few drawbacks when engaging the masses.
“Even if they don’t, they’ll encourage their children to play. They become the referees, coaches, the passionate fans of the game. That’s how you build the culture of the sport.”