Local basketball team competing for a national title

Words and image by Clare Nolan

When Debbie Keogh took on the role as head coach of Diamond Valley’s under 14-1 girls basketball team two years ago, her game plan was to take them to the National Junior Classics, and then to the Australian National Championships. So far, everything has gone to plan, with the girls earning a bronze medal at the Classics, and qualifying for the prestigious Championships in September. 

Only the best teams in Australia have qualified for this competition, so even before the first ball of the tournament is tossed into the air, the girls have a lot to be proud of. But to earn their place in the Championships, Debbie and her team have put in countless hours of work, perfecting their skills on the court, and learning how to care for their wellbeing off the court. 

As the coach of young athletes, Debbie plays dual roles as coach and mentor, but she cares about the girl’s welfare first, and the results second. As mentor, she has tried to instill a sense of pride in the way the girls carry themselves on and off the court. “I want to act as a positive role model for the girls and influence them to be productive members of the community,” she says. 

When the week-long basketball tournament at Casey Stadium begins in September, the girls will be ready. They will travel together as a team, stay at a local caravan park together, and train every day. They have been given nutritional advice that includes information on how much water they need to drink to stay hydrated and what foods they should avoid. The team also has a wellness coach who has put together a playlist of the girl’s favourite songs to boost their energy and focus. 

The girl’s weekly training schedule this year has been nothing short of impressive. On Wednesday nights, basketball training starts with a 30-minute wellness session followed by an hour of shooting practice, running the offence and defence, and game structures. On Thursday mornings at 6am they have a shooting session that is optional, but the hard-working girls always show up. On Friday nights they play their weekly basketball game (their win / loss record this season is 9 wins and 1 loss). And on Sunday mornings, they train for one and a half hours. 

As the girls are only 12 and 13 years-old, they need a loyal group of supporters to drive them to every practice and every game. And for this squad, their parents faithfully fulfil that role. Many of the parents also help the team in other ways, and Debbie is effusive in her praise of them. “One of the parent’s, Paul, is a former Olympian in athletics, and he takes the team through the warm-ups and stretching before the games. I am so blessed to have these sorts of people help the girls reach success”.

But in fact, when it comes to family support, Debbie Keogh’s family is in a league of their own. Her father Mike is her assistant coach, and the rest of her family, including her three children and their partners, never miss a game on Friday night. “They are so passionate, and afterwards they come back to our place and critique the game for me! My family is amazing,” she exults. 

Whilst Debbie knows the girls really want to win the gold medal at the Championships (and she is optimistic of their chances), she believes they have already achieved success as a team. But if the girls do happen to find themselves on the podium at the end of the week, Debbie promises there will be a huge party in Casey that evening. “The girls can dress up, and they can stay up all night! They can run around the caravan park and have an all-nighter!”

To learn more about the Diamond Valley Basketball Association, you can visit their website