They may not play instrument’s, but their talents are in perfect harmony on the basketball court this season!
Now let’s be honest, when you read the title of this story you thought “Why is he writing a story about the Michael Jackson lead, Jackson 5” right?
Well, before we go back into the history of that amazing singing group, our current history is bringing us another group that may be just as talented in our area gymnasiums, as the singers were in the studio! Make no mistake about it, only time will tell as to how talented they will ultimately be as they push and support each other’s talents on a daily basis. Just as the singers were comprised of 5 members (Michael Marlon, Tito, Jermain and Jackie) this family quintet is comprised of 5 members as well – Swynn, Saniya, Nevaeh, Jalen – and mom Katie. It is Katie who is the lead conductor of a group of young people set out to terrorize the State of Indiana as standout basketball performers intent on winning championships at the local, state and national levels along with attracting the nation’s top collegiate coaches.
This group is close, support each other’s accomplishments and keep up with their grades at a high level. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with this talented family and Welcome them to today’s Courtside with Coach Edmonds.
Q: First of all welcome to Courtside! Katie, hare with me the dynamics of having all of these talented athletes in your home and the day-to-day process for you and them?
Katie Jackson: Thank you for having us today! Well, I get up and follow my routine of going to the YMCA and start with a workout to get me going for the day, then it’s off to work at Lakeside Middle School where I’m an Assistant Principal. I rely a lot on them to be responsible and make good decisions while they’re home learning (virtually) and I’m away from home. They get their work done, and then go to practice and depending on what the evening entails (either practices or games) they support each other. We are always there for each other regardless. When I can’t be there for one reason or another Jalen steps up and makes sure things get done that particular day. They have a lot of additional responsibilities at home that must get done for this whole thing to work right.
Q: Jalen, with you being the oldest, how do you guys help each other get better before, during and after each season?
Jalen Jackson: We spend time with each other either shooting or going to the YMCA and working out. They don’t really like to play against me anymore because I’m so much bigger and stronger now than when we started years ago (laughter). Usually, I try to encourage them to work on their game and I assist in whatever way they need me. Swynn is the youngest so I spend more time with her than anyone, but we support each other positively and at times negatively to bring out the best in each of us.
Q: Nevaeh, tell me what it’s like to have a sister (identical twin) on the floor going to battle with you every practice and in games. What’s that dynamic like?
Nevaeh Jackson: I think it’s fun playing with Saniya. There are times when I’m not playing well that she’ll see something that needs corrected and tells me how to get readjusted (I guess, lol). I really enjoy just playing and being out there with her. It’s like we have 1 mind at times and that makes it fun!
Q: Saniya, same question…
Saniya Jackson: First of all, I don’t tell her, I YELL at her! (laughter) because there are times when she acts like she hears me but doesn’t listen. At times it gets annoying (especially when she yells back at me) but for the most part I enjoy it too!
Q: Swynn, with you being the youngest in the house, and having all of these talented siblings around you daily, what have you learned from them that is making you better?
Swynn Jackson: I know that I’m going to be taller than ALL of them so that’s encouraging (laughter). But for the most part it’s fun because I can go to their games and watch and learn. They ALL are willing to help me be a better player and person. Like Jalen said earlier I spend the most time with him, but the twins help me too!
Q: Jalen, now the questions will get tougher. Let’s say that you’ve had a tough game where you didn’t play very well or up to your standards. Who do you confide in when you come home?
Jalen Jackson: No doubt that would be Swynn. She’s usually pretty laid back and though she may not understand everything that I’m talking about I can communicate with her the best. There’s no argument or anything negative said, but if she’s not around then I’ll look at film and evaluate what I did wrong and move forward to correct it.
Q: Katie, your kids are talented ball players. Did you see this coming at an early age or was this all pretty surprising to you?
Katie Jackson: I saw that they were all extremely competitive at an early age which they got from me being a former college basketball player. I’ve always coached the twins, so when I saw the individual and team awards start to come in for them it started to hit me that maybe they had a chance to be successful. With Jalen, it was in 6th grade at Lakeside Middle School and the success that he had with coach Ken Causey. With Swynn, it was almost a natural progression because she was exposed (as they all were) to basketball literally at birth due to the fact that I was a referee, and she had all of these uber competitive siblings around her. I think when they would come home and turn basketball games on TV for no apparent reason and begin asking “higher level” basketball questions, along with constantly wanting to go to the gym, that it got my thoughts moving toward possibly making basketball something that they would pursue deeper.
Q: Nevaeh, how do you and Saniya separate your talents from each other? I guess what I’m asking is, what makes each of you separately special in your OWN right?
Nevaeh Jackson: I’m more of a passer than Saniya is (not to say that she isn’t) but I always look to make the extra pass to help a teammate be successful. Saniya is a driver which is something that she’s good at but we’re always trying to help each other in the areas that we’re weak in. Whether it’s shooting, dribbling or passing we’re always trying to help each other get better. We feel that if WE get better then the TEAM get better!
Q: Saniya, same question for you…
Saniya Jackson: First of all, I don’t wear a “top knot” on my head like Nevaeh does! (laughter) I wear a ponytail but aside from that I think that if you watch us play, you’ll see some similarities in our game but there are parts that are different as well. I think I’m a little better rebounder and a little quicker than Nevaeh, but we try to help each other get better in ALL areas of our game to be complete players.
Q: Swynn, your game is a little different from your siblings the most notable being that you’re left-handed. So, what can you pull from each of their talents that will help you become better as a player?
Swynn Jackson: Jalen is an amazing rebounder. I often think ‘how does he do that?’ I’d love to play defense like Nevaeh and shoot like Saniya. If I could combine those 3 things, then I’d think that I could be a pretty good player and maybe be better than ALL of them!”
Q: So Katie, tell me how you keep the focus in their life between student & athletes. They’re all good students as well as athletes so where does that balance come in?
Katie Jackson: The focus has always been that academics are a PRIORITY in our home before anything else. When they were little, I would help them whenever I could and if they needed addition help, with me being in education, I would use the resources available to me to assist in their learning. The thing that I enjoy the most is when they help EACH OTHER in their learning. I check their grades constantly and communicate with their teachers on their progress. I want them to know that hard work is important, and I try to model that at home. They know that there’s no athletics without academics and there’s no compromising on that.
Q: Now I know that each of you want to play basketball collegiately and have the talent to do that. What level do envision yourselves as a goal for your basketball talents?
Jalen Jackson: I’d love to play in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) at maybe Ball State or another MAC school. After that, if the opportunity to play overseas comes then I’ll travel the world and play basketball which would be awesome to experience!
Saniya Jackson: “I’d like to play at the D1 (Division One) level and then become an attorney. I used to have the WNBA as a goal but not so much anymore. I want to be an attorney because they make more money than professional basketball players so that’s my goal after college.
Nevaeh Jackson: I’d also like to play at the D1 level and then start a career as a pediatric nurse at maybe Riley’s Children’s Hospital. I enjoy working with kids and that would be awesome if I could do something like that after college.
Q: Swynn, what’s it like for you being in the Middle School to see all of these honors and attention being given to your siblings? Are the expectations the same of you as for them?
Swynn Jackson: There are times that kids will say “I saw your brother or sisters on TV” or teachers will say little things about how they hope that I’m as good as them but for the most part it’s okay. Teachers make comparisons but I’ve decided to just be the best player that I can be and get help from my family along the way.
Q: As we bring this to a close what are a few interesting facts that each of you like to share that maybe we don’t know?
Katie Jackson: Well, we have a group chat each week that we call: “La Familia” (The Family). What I love about it is that we discuss the week’s activities and events, but the greatest part is that they support each other in what they’re doing and that makes mom proud
Jalen Jackson: Mom is the most inspirational person on this planet. I see her as a person who not only works and guides us as a family but has a huge impact on other kids either at her school, her friends, or those that she coaches. She’s always putting others ahead of herself and I appreciate and love her for that.
Saniya Jackson: I know that most people think that Nevaeh is my favorite but it’s actually a tie between her and Swynn. Swynn is so much fun! We fight the least and we laugh the most when we’re together!
Nevaeh Jackson: Mom is a lot of fun to be around. Even when we’re fighting, she’ll join in (and probably get slammed by me), but I love that she’s not a boring mom but supports us through everything that we go through and is always there for us. She’ll even do an occasional Tik-Tok video with us which is pretty cool.
Swynn Jackson: I like is when mom works out WITH me that’s so helpful. I also wanted to share that the room downstairs always shakes when mom does Tae-Bo upstairs! (laughter) Also Jalen is a pretty good cook who likes to try to make new dishes for us to eat instead of the same old things!
Q: Your family had a pretty nice honor(s) come your way recently with Jalen and Saniya winning the WPTA 21 Player of The Week honor. Now this is the FIRST time that 2 members of the same household received this honor in the same week. What was that experience like?
Jalen Jackson: It was pretty cool and not something that I expected. With Saniya and I both winning this award we threw a lot of shade at Nevaeh (laughter) for not winning. It was nice though to share it with my family and we know that Nevaeh will eventually win this award as well.
Saniya Jackson: I was surprised because all I wanted to do was play a good game against Snider and help our team win. We are extremely competitive in our home and are always trying to outdo each other in everything that we do so it was nice to win this award. It was even better to come back and win the Sectionals last weekend too! Our goal is to go as far as we can in this state tournament, and we feel that we can go all the way if we keep playing hard and together!
Q: Mom, out of all of your kids’ accomplishments, what’s the ONE thing that makes you the proudest?
Katie Jackson: That’s easy. They’re ALL good people and understand how to treat others with respect and dignity. Athletics will come and go but how they treat others is hopefully what will set them apart from everything else. That’s what makes me the proudest of them. By the way… if I may share this. My twins just won the girls basketball Regional last Saturday night so we’re playing in the Semi-State for an opportunity to go to the state finals next weekend. Another proud mom moment!
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. Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday 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.