Players with the Langley Rebels Special Olympics basketball team spent four months of virtual training with Trinity Western University players and coaches (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Players with the Langley Rebels Special Olympics basketball team spent four months of virtual training with Trinity Western University players and coaches (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Virtual training gets results for Langley Special Olympics team

Trinity Western University experiment in using video chat software rated a success by players and coaches

Now that it’s over and it all worked out, the people who participated in a Langley virtual coaching experiment this spring admit they had their doubts in the beginning.

It was an opportunity for players with the Langley Rebels Special Olympics basketball team to work with their counterparts at Langley’s Trinity Western University.

Going in, TWU assistant coach Grace Guderyan said she was a little skeptical, but since the pandemic made in-person coaching impossible, she was willing to give it a shot.

“We could still do a volunteer activity, but it had to be virtual,” Guderyan explained.

Rebels player Alana Jones was also doubtful at first.

“I didn’t know how virtual basketball would work,” Jones told the Langley Advance Times.

“I had no idea what do expect.”

She told her mother, she would give it a try, but “if I hate it I’m not doing it.”

At the end of the program, both Guderyan and Jones called it a success, and an enjoyable experience.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Playing with the big guys: how a Langley basketball player ended up shooting hoops with NBA greats

Once a week over four months, Guderyan and two other athletes would run a virtual basketball session with eight to 10 Rebels players, an opportunity to focus on skills and allow the players, who have been kept apart by COVID-19 restrictions, an chance to be social.

“It was super nice,” Jones said.

Coach Guderyan said the virtual program produced some real improvements in playing ability.

“We actually noticed a huge improvement,” Guderyan said.

Jones said in-person, the team practice sessions usually focus on shooting and dribbling, but the virtual session had a different emphasis, and it turned out to be a welcome change.

“This time we focused on ball handling and I notice mine is much better,” Jones said.

She enjoyed the experience, enough to keep setting up her laptop in the family garage to participate.

“Every week, I looked forward to basketball time.”

Jones feels it was nice to have the connection “even though it was virtual, with my teammates.”

“Overall, a very positive experience,” Jones summed up.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Langley’s Christian Burton takes the plunge for Special Olympics

Guderyan gives the Rebels credit for having a good work ethic.

“They had such positive attitudes” the coach remarked.

“They definitely took on the challenge.”

Feedback from the athletes and student coaches will be used to fine-tune future virtual training programs at TWU.

And while Jones is giving virtual workout her approval, she is hoping there will come a time when she and her teammates can train in person again.

“I love basketball” Jones commented.

I am so looking forward to hopefully the fall, being able to resume in person.”

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