In an AAU environment that focuses on individual success over team success, the Troop West Girls Basketball Club does things differently.
While developing players and winning games is an important part of travel ball, Troop West director and head coach Derek Ballard believes creating a family atmosphere and growing as people off the court comes first.
Ballard doesn’t allow foul language at practices or at games, and stresses the importance of building chemistry not just on the court, but off the court.
“The group that we have is so unique because they are all such good friends and similar, they’re all good kids,” Ballard said. “They all just became close, so it was easy for them to play a team game because they genuinely care for each other.”
“With Troop being such a family atmosphere, it really helps on the court when I make mistakes because usually I’m so hard on myself, but they really pick me up and are just so positive and make me feel better about making that mistake,” said Jasmine Glover, who plays for Valencia. “That makes me a better player because instead of worrying about that play where I made a mistake, I’m able to move on from it faster.”
That family atmosphere is one of the reasons why Troop West stands out from the crowd and has attracted players from all over the region, including four current teammates on the Valencia girls basketball team.
Even on the court they play like a family. Instead of the usual “help” call after a player is screened, Troop West players say, “I got your back.”
“There is something we say on defense when you’re in a position to help the person guarding the ball you say, ‘I got your help,’ but we say, ‘I got your back,’ said Mailey Ballard, who also plays for the Vikings. “We yell that in the game and I think it’s cool because I know on and off the court they have my back.”
“‘I got your back,’ that was something we all learned the moment we stepped on the court with this team,” added Skylar Ingram, who averaged a double-double for Valencia last season as a junior.
In only their second year since being established, the Santa Clarita-based club has expanded to four teams consisting of players from across the region, including Camarillo, Lancaster and even Bakersfield.
Troop West, which is sponsored by Adidas and just returned from the Adidas Gauntlet Championships in Atlanta this week, continues to garner exposure on the national stage.
The Adidas Platinum Black team entered the tournament as a No. 6 seed after successful stints at the Adidas Gauntlet in Indianapolis from July 10-12 and the Adidas Gauntlet in Dallas from April 26-28.
Playing against top competition from around the country, the Black team went 2-2 in the Platinum bracket, winning their last two games after dropping the first two.
“These girls stay united, play together and we’ve gotten several compliments about how hard our girls play,” Ballard said. “That’s one of the things that stands out, when college coaches say they love watching our girls play. They play so hard.”
The Gold team also went 2-2 in the 17U Silver Jones bracket, but much like what Ballard preaches in practice, it’s about playing hard and supporting one another, not just the wins and losses.
Ballard said the teams played at a high level throughout the tournament and he’s proud that his players were able to gain valuable experience playing in front of hundreds of college coaches.
“I think it was really fun because you are surrounded by all these good players and playing at these nice facilities in front of a bunch of people, so it’s just a cool experience,” said Marissa Howell, another Valencia hooper who plays on the Gold team. “I think we did pretty well, we had some off games, but I think we ended it on a good note.”
Playing together at Valencia has given the four Troop West players a big advantage during travel ball, as they’ve already grown accustomed to each other’s tendencies.
Playing for Troop West also helps them during high school ball, because they are used to playing in high-pressure situations against top competition.
“When you play with new players you have to get used to their playing style, so when we came together on this team we already knew each other and we’ve been playing together,” said Ingram. “We know what we like to do and how we do it, and you start realizing this could work and gives an added advantage.”
“I see them play and their routines and I know how good they can play, so when one of us isn’t playing to the best of our ability we can get on each other,” added Mailey.
The tournament in Atlanta marked the end of the summer season for Troop West, which will resume practices and events in September.
As they continue to make a name for themselves, Ballard would love to see more players get involved with the club.
Registration opens in February, and more information can be found at www.troopwest.com.