In the Mosinee Elementary School gym, a group of about ten 5th grade girls run the length of the court, dribbling with their left, then their right hands.
They’re part of just one of Mosinee’s many youth programs, teaching kids the fundamentals of sports early on.
Here, they’re instilling a foundation, and a love of the game that will pay off for Mosinee athletics years down the road.
“You have to have a basketball in your hand more to get good at the sport of basketball,” said Tom McCarty, Mosinee’s girls varsity basketball coach.
“And that’s what we have going on, is kids have the ball in their hand at an earlier age, and they’re getting excited about it, so they’re putting in extra work.”
The results are evident: The girls basketball team is in the hunt for a Great Northern Conference Title. The boys team is undefeated, sitting atop the GNC.
But the success isn’t just coming on the hardwood.
The football team finished second in the GNC this year, while the boys soccer team came within a goal of earning a trip to state.
The girls volleyball team did make it to their state tournament, falling to East Troy in the state semifinals.
The volleyball program is just now starting to see the results of a youth program in their community.
“This is kinda that first group that we’ve had a whole high school that’s gone through and participated in our youth program, so it’s kinda nice to see them all come together and really pay off,” said girls varsity volleyball coach Justin Jacobs.
For Jacobs, and really all of these programs, having kids play together for years before they get to the varsity level can pay big dividends.
“We can do just so much more offensively, because their IQ of the game is so much higher. We’re running 4, 5 different free ball plays. We got a lot of different options in serve/receive. They just know the game so much better, and it opens up a lot for us,” Jacobs said.
Joseph Carlson, varsity boys soccer coach added,”The relationships, the connections, the camaraderie that they form when they’re freshman, junior, sophomores, comes to fruition their senior years.”
Those years together also means these athletes are all playing at a much higher level when they reach the varsity level.
“They just have a better understanding than in the past, when some of the things we were teaching to 9th and 10th graders, or even our varsity teams, these kids have been doing for years,” said boys varsity basketball coach Andy Bruess.
“It’s a major advantage, just from a basketball IQ standpoint. We see our kids understanding the game at a higher level, they’re reacting to game situations. We don’t have to coach as many specific situations cause they’ve seen them more,” McCarty said.
Most communities boast some sort of youth program, so that in itself doesn’t make Mosinee unique.
But what most in Mosinee say sets them apart, is the total buy in they’ve gotten from their community.
‘I think it’s the community support and the parent support we have. Like I said, if it was just the varsity coaches expected to do this on their own, we never could. And so we have great parents, great communities that step up and help us,” McCarty said.