The Watson Chapel coaching staff is making an investment in the future.

The Watson Chapel coaching staff is making an investment in the future.

When Matt Busch took over as the head coach of the Wildcats this year, he and girls coach Leslie Henderson sat down and discussed the best options to improve the school’s basketball program.

What they came up with was sacrificing their Saturdays by starting a pee-wee league.

“We sat in her office and talked several times about what we could do,” Busch said during Saturday’s games in the high school gymnasium. “Eventually we had to stop talking about it and do it. So, here we are.”

So the duo teamed up to create the league for Watson Chapel fifth- and sixth-graders. Using monies from fund-raising coffers within the basketball program, Henderson and Busch purchased the necessary items to bring the idea to life. And with uniforms and officials in place all they needed was coaches.

For that they both went to their benches.

Current Watson Chapel players are now getting a taste of what it’s like to be a coach. It’s an opportunity for the players to gain insight on what it takes to run a team during the heat of battle while also giving back to the school and community.

There are currently 60 participants in the program, a number Henderson believes will increase in the upcoming years.

Seniors Caleb Goss and Jazmyne Moore are two of the 15 players who volunteered to coach. Goss has a family tradition of Pine Bluff basketball. His grandfather, Elgie Goss, coached at Pine Bluff High School and was an administrator until the early 1990s.

“I’ve been around this pretty much all my life,” the 17-year old Goss said. “I had someone give back to me when I was a little kid. It was actually my father. I know these kids need somebody.”

And while Goss is fulfilling the needs of the kids, he is finding out some things about himself as well.

“I have gotten some patience out it,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s tough when they are going 90 miles an hour and you are trying to tell them to do something.”

Moore has been a Lady Wildcat for five years with Henderson shouting instructions from the sidelines. Now that it’s her turn she understands why her coach does some of the things she does. And it showed her what she didn’t want to do after graduation.

“I know I can’t be a coach,” she said. “It is a lot of fun but I don’t want to be a coach. It gives me a different outlook on my coaches. But this is good for the kids and I have had a great time doing this. It really has been fun.”

And while the “coaches” have learned valuable life lessons for today, Henderson and Busch are gaining a talent pool for the future.

“This is something I have wanted to do for years,” Henderson said. “We are going to get a few kinks worked out and watch it grow.”

Henderson added that other members of the basketball team are affiliated with the program in other ways. Some work in the concession stand, some take money at the gate while others keep the books and run the clock.

“We are able to pay them for doing some of this work,” she said. “These kids are not always in a position to go out and get a job. And we want them to experience as much of life as possible. We expect them to study and make good grades, practice hard, be good kids and stay out of trouble and this is the only opportunity some of them will have to have an actual chance to work at a job.”

The program also has a program called Little Dribblers for kindergarten through fourth grade.

For at least one of the league’s participants, 11-year old Austin Smith, the opportunity to play on Saturday’s is not only fun, but an avenue to be part of the future of Wildcat basketball.

“I would just be at home playing basketball on X-Box,” the sixth grader admitted. “I think this is fun. It’s a way for everybody to get out and have a good time together. …I want to make it to the junior high and high school team here. Being able to do this gives me a chance to know everybody and lets them see what I can do.”