Keith Edmonds is a 32-year veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, located in Indianapolis, Indiana and home to the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, is the mecca of Indiana high school basketball.
Every basketball season, out of roughly 680 schools in the state, only four teams (one for each of the four classes 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A) on the girls and boys sides will have their seasons end on the high note of winning the Indiana State Basketball Championship and have their names etched in history as the best team in their particular class for that season. What a tremendous honor it is, and something that I personally feel every coach should have the privilege of being a part of, as it is a memorable experience that you’ll never forget.
Coaches and teams worked tirelessly from the summer months leading in the season, and grind their way through long and difficult regular seasons just to make sure that their teams are prepared to compete and hopefully advance to the state finals in early March for the girls and late March for the boys. It us a special place that few schools/teams have the opportunity to experience, and man what an experience it is. But how does it happen for teams? Do the most talented teams make it? How about the most experienced teams? Is it luck? Is it skill? Let’s take a look at how it can happen and answer the question “How do you get to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to play in the STATE FINALS?”
The dream of playing in the Indiana state finals in basketball is a dream that starts for many players as early as 5 or 6 years old, which is usually when kids start playing the game. Many coaches in our area have attended the state finals either as spectators, former players, or in some cases coached in them. But even if none of the aforementioned scenarios have happened, we all are reminded of Bankers Life by students, staff, friends and casual fans who ask questions like “are we going to state this year coach?” Or make definitive statements like “I KNOW we’ve got the best team in the area, so winning the State Championship is a given!”
Yes, our admiring public sees our kids play and just assume that because we have Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike, that’s enough firepower for us to get to Indianapolis, cut the nets for our school and give us bragging rights for the next 10 years minimum. Wait a minute. Did I actually name the members of New Edition as a basketball reference? Just follow along folks…
As I’ve made reference to previously, basketball season is a long and grinding road with many twists and turns, but speaking humbly as a coach that was fortunate enough to advance to the State Finals in 2003, here are five keys that I feel you need to have to get to Indy for a chance to play in the state championship:
Your team has to understand that getting to the state finals is a process that in some cases may take four years in the making. As your ninth graders entering the program blend with seasoned upperclassmen to develop the mindset that to have a chance to compete for a state championship, we all have to sacrifice our individual goals for team goals.
The state championship doesn’t happen in the first or even the tenth game. Let the season mature and allow players to settle into their roles and feel good about their contributions to outcomes each game.
A team must stay away from major injuries if they want to have a chance to make it to state. Yes, there will be little nicks and bumps, but stay healthy for a great chance to get to Bankers Life.
The school and administration must be supportive of the coaches, players and everyone connected to the program. Keep encouraging them towards success even after a tough loss or if their child is not playing as much as they would like them to.
You must have players that at key moments of tournament games, when the pressure is at its highest, can seize the moment and finish games as if it’s their time to shine. If you have those types of players you’ve given yourself a real opportunity to advance to Indy.
So that’s my take on how you get to Bankers Life Arena and play in the Indiana State Finals. What I didn’t mention is a little luck (because you can’t control that) so let’s sit courtside and see what happens in our great state of Indiana as teams battle in the Semi-State this week on the girls side and punch their ticket for this unforgettable experience.
Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday during the prep basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers.