Over three years, the Troop West girls basketball program has grown exponentially. Two years ago, in the inaugural year, there were two teams. The following year, there were four teams.
This year, there are six teams in the Troop West system. With tryouts starting this weekend, there are more opportunities than ever for girls basketball players to be involved with Troop West, which is based in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“It’s crazy what happens when you do the right things,” said Troop West coach Derek Ballard. “You do all the right things and work hard and good things happen, so I think that people appreciate the coaches’ effort on all levels and once they realize how much they care, it makes it even better.”
The six teams slated for Troop West’s upcoming season are a 17U Adidas team and a 16U Adidas team, a 17U Elite team, a 15U team and a 14U team.
The two Adidas teams are the top-tier Troop West teams and compete in the Adidas Gauntlet, a series of national tournaments that offer significant exposure to college coaches. Selection to the Adidas Gauntlet is coveted and can only be done so by maintaining a certain number of players with NCAA Division 1 college interest.
Last year, Troop West reached a No. 6 ranking out of 80 Adidas teams. Additionally, multiple players committed to colleges, including Alyssa Marin, who signed with Division 1 UC Santa Barbara and Skylar Ingram, who committed to Cal State Bernardino.
“When you go to gauntlet events, you’ve got 500 Division 1 coaches that are watching,” Ballard said. “The prime time and pressure for the girls to perform in that environment against the best players in the nation, it’s really an unreal experience and to be able to compete at that level is kind of surreal.”
Although Troop West can be highly competitive, the teams within the program are highly supportive of each other. Adidas Gauntlet teams watch the Elite team, which doesn’t travel nationally, and vice versa.
Ballard and the other coaches have worked hard to build this culture and hold the players to high standards. Cliques and foul language aren’t tolerated and each player is expected to play hard every time she steps on the court.
“I don’t coach them like they’re girls,” Ballard said. “I coach them as basketball players and I had a number of years where I coached boys and I push these girls just as hard if not harder and they respond. They have great attitudes, they have great respect and they’ll run through a wall for you.”
Troop West has attracted players from all over California as well as from states like Nevada and Arizona, but Ballard encourages local players to come out for a team. The younger teams practice twice a week in Santa Clarita and the older teams practice at facilities in Santa Clarita as well as a gym in La Puente to accommodate players from San Diego.
“I want to get girls to not feel intimidated and come out and play and get a good workout and see where you fall,” Ballard said. “I guarantee you’re going to get better from coming to tryouts and it would be a good experience.
“I want them to just throw caution to the wind and just come out and see what happens. We’d love to have more girls from this valley participate in the program.”
In addition to tryouts, Troop West is seeking sponsors to offset the costs associated with traveling to tournaments, especially for players whose parents can’t pay their way. Although Adidas gives Troop West some funds, operating costs for the six teams still come out to nearly $100,000.
“We can always use help,” Ballard said. “It’s helping girls to be able to live their dreams and last year was very rewarding to be able to get sponsorships for girls and it’s the first time they’ve ever been out of this valley or Palmdale and they’re flying to Atlanta and Indianapolis.”
Tryouts for Troop West start this weekend and will be a series of sessions that span Feb. 22 and 23 as well as Feb. 29 and March 1.
Players interested in trying out for the team or businesses that are interested in sponsoring the team can visit the team’s website, troopwest.com, for more information.