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An Interview With Sherwood High School Basketball Coach Rahim Tufts

Monday, August 14, 2017

 

Nothing tells you summer is at its peak than the high temperatures Oregon has been hit with in recent weeks. If you haven’t run off to cooler temperatures such as the beach, a lake or river to cool down, you may very well be thinking about it, right about now.

And while temperatures have been higher than usual, one has to admit it has been fun! There is something to the level of activity and energy that only summer brings out. One of my favorite things without a doubt is to see the many things people do to enjoy the weather. From early mornings to late nights, we all find ways to get busy and active. We hike, run, bike, shoot hoops and of, course, figure out ways to fit more and more before fall comes.

One common activity for families with kids or not are camps. They are intensive schools for all types of things and for all ages and interests. You can find cooking, chess, math, science, SAT prep camps, etc. But of course, today we will stick to what we know at OSN, which is sports and how a local town tackles the task.

While camps are often places for kids to go during summer and do something with their free time, others take it beyond serious. But more important is that they offer an opportunity to grow and work on the athlete they want to become.

Personally, I find it fascinating to see young men and women giving up their summer to concentrate on the sports they love. Sports is one of the most demanding activities and a lack of commitment can seriously deteriorate skill and take an effect on innate talent. The key to success in anything, but especially in sports is an uninterrupted continuum in developing the innate skills athletes have.

And while today I will be keeping it more at the local level, the reality is that the athletic summer preparation is of the essence to succeed not only in youth sports, but also for college and even professional athletes as well.

Think of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James with the NBA. Who could forget that one offseason where they went into intense physical conditioning and nutrition resets to come back and conquer the basketball court? Same concept for kids and coaches in the local communities we are part of.

The reality is that excellence in sports is about commitment during and off season. If you want to be good at something, you do not take a “vacation” if you love and want to grow as an athlete. No, we cannot take a peek at how LeBron or Kobe did it all but we have the opportunity to take a look at how local youth do it here in Oregon through the eyes of a very talented coach.

THE TOWN:

Sherwood, Oregon –

Sherwood is a city in Washington County, Oregon. It is southwest of Portland. Sherwood was incorporated in 1893 as a town and as the 2016 census shows, a population of 19,294. Sherwood is home to four elementary, two middle, one high school, two charter schools and two private schools. Sherwood is one of the most family-oriented communities in the Portland-Metro area making it an ideal backdrop to share this narrative.

SPORTS IN SHERWOOD:

Sherwood’s youth can play a variety of sports through local schools, the City of Sherwood Parks and Rec and the local YMCA. There are also other organized leagues including but not limited to ice skating or hockey at one of the top ice skating rinks in Oregon.

With all types of sports going on, it can be at times a challenge for those who play multiple to find the time to be part of them all. However, with an elevated level of commitment and passion very much like the ones professional athletes have, Sherwood youth and coaches find a way to make it all work.

SHERWOOD HIGH BASKETBALL –

Summer had just started and I was craving a little bit more of basketball. Having just watched the Golden State Warriors take their fifth title home and witnessing the Cavaliers go home empty handed (a team I respect very much) I somehow found myself craving more basketball.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that I continue to experience championship withdrawals as my team (the Lakers) continue to fall short. Somehow, I knew I had to get my basketball feed and needed it to be significant and raw.

With that thought in mind I found myself walking through the main doors of Sherwood High School Gym doors as I had been given the opportunity to have a 1:1 with Sherwood High School Head Basketball Coach Rahim Tufts.

THE COACH:

High school sports are the pillar to future professional talent in every sport. Youth develop their skills and work toward their dreams in every game, every chance they get. This of course is the case at Sherwood High Basketball and why not the community as a whole.

Sherwood High’s Basketball coach is Rahim Tufts. Coach Tufts arrived to Sherwood High last season to take over for coach Tony Merrill. And even though he basically “just arrived”, Coach Tufts is already considered a local by his team and community peers and after talking to him 1:1, it is easy to see why.

Coach Tufts arrived with an impressive record from the Class 4A ranks. He spent five years as head coach of Scappoose, collecting a 91-44 overall record and 36-14 Cowapa League mark.

He coached Scappoose High to the 2014-15 Class 4A state championship leading them to a fifth-place finish at state. He recorded an 8-5 postseason record with them as well. After eleven years in Scappoose, he found an opportunity to join Sherwood High and took a chance. Here is our 1:1 with Coach Tufts:

OSN: Tell me a little bit about Scappoose. How does that happen and how do you end up in Sherwood?

Coach Tufts: Oh man. So that was my first teaching job once I got my Master’s at Pacific University, majored in Literature and took out my masters and I was there for 11 years. And my first six I was an assistant coach under four different head coaches. So there was kind of a revolving door with some inconsistencies in the program. The fortunate thing is that I was kind of there the whole time, and so, me and one of my best friends, we were there the whole time so for consistency, the kids still had that continuous voice. So, when I got the head coach’s job it was a smooth transition because I had already coached those kids on JV. I mean it’s just a wonderful community, great parent involvement and athletic kids, great athletic program, for football, baseball, across the board, soccer. For boys and girls, and we were fortunate enough to kind of get some momentum going in the community, and kids really bought into what we were teaching from the skill development kind of point and the standpoint of a team. We had success, we won a few league titles and were able to win the state titles and the year later we got back to the semifinals after not having a single starter back from the state championship team. One of the best players broke his ankle in his senior year in the state championship so we did not have him so our five starters for that year did not start, or did not play significant minutes as the previous year and we were able to get to the semifinals. We had a great year, we had a blast.

OSN: I bet! So, what makes a good basketball team? If you had to pick the top three things at this age and level?

Coach Tufts: You have to have skill, but even before you have skill, you have to be selfless and you have to have the kids’ buy in that is about the big picture and it is not about “me”. And you know in these days and time kids grow up with the “me” with the “selfies” and social media, and I think this generation has a bad wrap with it a little bit, but is what they have grown up with and once you peel away the selfies and the social media they are just like any generation. And I feel bad for these teenagers that get a bad rap “Oh those teenagers, it’s all about me, and they are always on their phone”, but when you get to know them, they are just kids, teenagers. Like any other generation and good kids when you are able to reach in at a deeper level and so the challenge is to get to that deeper level and spend time and understand that is not just about basketball.

OSN: Obviously to get to that level, it has to get beyond practices and games. What do you do as a coach to peel off those layers?

Coach Tufts: I’ve said it from day one in coaching and teaching, is about relationships. And so having to foster and getting to foster those relationships it’s super important so that 1:1 daily interactions, talking to them in the hallway, it’s in the classroom, it’s in the court. We do a lot of stuff off the court, team building spirit teams, try to build comarade within the program. And one of our goals is to be one of the most “hugging” programs in the state. And I know [it]is not measurable, I don’t know how much McMinnville teams, how much they hug, but kids really bought into that. We are going to hug it out and I am going to hug you and know that I care about you and have those meaningful conversations that is not about basketball, so after a big game we hug it out in the locker room and you have to hug every person before you leave or after a tough loss, same thing.

And the beginning sometimes it’s awkward for kids. Not every family is a super hugging family; not every male is supper huggy. But you can see the shift, after this first year here in Sherwood, you see “Hey Coach I need a hug” and the same thing in Scappoose. I still see some of those players, some of those players come and help in our camps. The minute they walk in the door, we hug it out and that’s just a huge part of what we do in the program.

OSN: This camp, is this for hopefuls who wish to make it through the tryouts?

Coach Tufts: This is a youth camp. So we have four different age groups. We have a kindergarten and elementary group. Middle school, fifth and sixth grade group in the morning and in the afternoon, we have seventh through ninth grades.

OSN: What is the goal of the camp? Skill building or…..?

Coach Tufts: First, [it]is for the love of basketball. We want to help them develop their skill and never give it up. Leaving them with the feeling of “I want to play”. Build relationships, and again relationships that will last.

OSN: What happens after camp?

Coach Tufts: Once it is over, we talk about stuff they learned, stuff they need to work on during and off the season.

OSN: You will be coaching again for Sherwood High this fall correct? What can we expect from the team this coming season?

Coach Tufts: I think you will see a big jump from the past season. Some people can only see wins and losses. Our numbers will get better and not only that but the relationships will be stronger and going into the second summer it has been incredible. So much more fun! Not that last year wasn’t fun, but last year I was figuring out their names, their skill level, what can they do, but now we are building upon what we have done for the past 12 months, so this summer has been so much fun.

OSN: What was it like to walk into a new team, a new school, a new community? As you said, you had those components at Scappoose. What has Sherwood been like?

Coach Tufts: Super welcoming, everyone has been great. The administration, the teachers, the parents, they want to be coached, they want to be pushed. But it’s a big-time challenge. It’s a new teaching job, it’s a full time job, it’s a new coaching job, so it really is two new full time jobs.

You are trying to implement your stuff at the youth level, running a JV and Varsity program. So there is a lot of late nights, more so than I am hoping than in three years. When you know the building, you know the systems, you know the people and the people at the youth level. It was a big challenge, but a good challenge I wanted to take on. That’s why I left Scappoose because it would be a nice challenge at a bigger level. And it’s awesome, this community for my wife and my kids.

OSN: For any kid out there who wants to play basketball during the fall, what should they be doing in the summer to prepare for the tryout?

Coach Tufts: I told these kids today, one of the biggest things I see lacking at the high school level, is for kids to be able to shoot.  A lot of kids can dribble, they can play really hard but there is a lack of fundamental shooting skill.  Just to be a knock down shooter, and I said that even in our league.

Looking out there, there aren’t really that many great shooters out there. So if you can commit to being a great shooter, you have a really good chance to make the team. And obviously attend as many camps as you can, but it takes time.

OSN: I can see that. I played basketball as a teen of course no one would believe it because I am short, but it was fun and it has helped me in life in general, that whole concept of being a team has been instrumental for me as an adult.

Coach Tufts: Exactly, we talk about that all the time, it’s about life skills! It is not just about basketball. You know even my wife or other people usually say, “You know, there is a lot more to life than basketball” because I spend so much time doing this, but I respond with, “Well, there is more to basketball, than basketball.”

Because we really are trying to build life skills. There is intention on that. Because [it]is about raising strong young men and there is all sorts of things that they learn as you know when they play organized sports. But we are always working on that.

Hoping they know, learn how to communicate, be organized, learn how to be accountable, we are really direct about that and how that translates to life.

—-

The life of athletes is a life of consistency, continuum, respect, skill, talent and love for the sport.

Without Coach Tufts’ talent, skill and love for the game along with a supporting and welcoming community such as Sherwood, we would not have excellence in athletics and the best basketball league in the world. So if you are getting withdrawals such as yours truly, do not hesitate and find a camp, go to the next community or school game.

Support your colors, support your kids, support your coach on and off every season. There is no better way to spend your summer than playing sports!

Thank you to Coach Tufts for sharing his vision for Sherwood and to Dave Schweitzer for helping OSN make this 1:1 happen.

 

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