The basketball courts of the Winterhaven, Calif., Community Center resounded with the footsteps of Marines fighting to take their team to victory, April 27 and 28.
The fourteen Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma who comprise the stationâ€™s basketball team competed in a tournament against other teams from across the region, some from as far away as Phoenix and Tuscon, Ariz. The team made it to the fourth round of the tourney before being eliminated from the competition.
This tournament was just the start of the season for the team, with competitions like this one occurring almost every other weekend. The team has been practicing together two-three times per week in two hour sessions since February, under the guidance of coach Stephanie Van.
â€œThey are a very young team and are still learning to play with each other, but they have impeccable talent,â€ said Van, an environmental department secretary and a San Jose, Calif. native. â€œThey are a very talented group, and all of them bring something to the table.â€
A MCAS Yuma varsity menâ€™s basketball team has existed for years, and to become part of this fraternity is no simple task. Each player must pass through try-outs to show they have what it takes to help further the team.
“Talent and experience are requirements,â€ stated Van. â€œIf you have potential to play and the team can mold you, thatâ€™s one thing. But for someone whoâ€™s never really played basketball, it would be like if that person tried out for a college team.â€
Van, who became coach after offering advice from the stands to the players during one of their games, which led them to a victory, leads her team with a ferocious, no-nonsense attitude.
â€œI prefer to be a vocal coach rather than just sit there and say nothing,â€ added Van. â€œI want them to know that I am paying attention. If I see a mistake Iâ€™m going to fix it right then and there. I donâ€™t yell and scream at them, but I try to be motivating and loud enough to be heard. I told them I would coach them only on one condition: they would listen and do what they are told.â€
The team normally competes against the teams from other military installations, but tries to add in tournaments run by civilians, which the players have to pay for out-of-pocket.
â€œTheyâ€™ve come a long way since February,â€ said Van. â€œAs long as they grow, learn to play better together and play their hearts out, thatâ€™s what matters.â€