Five seconds left on the clock. Down two. Needing a big-time shot to win the game. Rather than being on the court with the game on the line, former varsity basketball players Jeff Keare and Collin Shen, both seniors, are on the sideline instead. Shen explained, “It’s not how I would’ve thought I’d be spending my senior season”. Keare and Shen have been avid basketball players their entire lives, playing on high-level school and club teams throughout middle and high school, and have turned to coaching local youth teams to fulfill their passion for basketball.
Keare and Shen were both standouts at M-A starting freshman year. Shen won the MVP of his freshman team and was called up to practice with the varsity team as early as his freshman year. Keare played JV for two years before being called up to play for the varsity team at the end of his sophomore year. “Basketball made up a huge part of my life and took up most of my free time. For years and years I spent hours shooting almost every day and played on plenty of club teams and school teams,” said Keare.
After two years of practicing with the varsity squad, Shen joined the varsity team as a full participant his junior year, but the experience was not what Shen was expecting. Shen said, “As a freshman and sophomore, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed about basketball and my future in the M-A program, however, I just really couldn’t find joy in the team once I got there”. After playing in the spring and summer after his junior year on M-A club and summer ball teams, Shen decided late into the summer that he would forgo playing his senior season as a Bear, “I wasn’t having the fun I usually have when playing the sport, I love basketball, but being on the team wasn’t fulfilling my passion, and that’s when I knew I was gonna quit.”
For Keare, his playing time at M-A ended in a injury, “After a back injury that prevented me from playing my junior year, I found from this injury that I really didn’t need basketball to fill a purpose in my life anymore. I also tried a new sport in volleyball and really enjoyed myself” said Keare. Keare soon decided that he would find other ways to use his knowledge and experience in basketball and started coaching at local Hillview Middle School, his alma mater, with a group of friends. Keare said, “I had more free time in the winter time now to do something else. I could add some valuable knowledge to the coaching staff with my experience”. Keare who has now been a coach for two years originally joined his friend Brett Kessler, who had been coaching at Hillview a year prior to him.
Keare stated his goals in coaching: “I want to see my players improve at the little things. Even decent 8th graders generally have their fundamentals down and the only thing holding them back is a lack of knowledge about defensive positioning, when to make certain passes, [and] how to run an offense. Anyone can train elementary schoolers, but as kids get older the coach needs more experience of their own to make good decisions and give the right tips.” Here is Keare’s seventh grade home video highlight tape from his time as a Hillview Middle School student.
Shen, who still loves the game and wanted to find a way to be around it, found a way to cultivate his interest through coaching. “I wanted to take my experience as a player at M-A, both good and bad, and coach some younger guys,” he explained. Shen added that “having the perspective of the player has given me insight on who I want to be as a coach and who I don’t want to be. I have sympathy for my guys because I know what they are going through when they screw up. I approach them with sympathy and understanding while still letting them know how to fix it.” Shen believes that this is the best way to coach the kids as his own experiences with angry and animated coaches led him astray. Shen had played at Hillview for his middle school years, fondly remembering the time he had playing with friends. “Basketball was a way for me to just have fun and connect with my friends during middle school, I missed the feel of Hillview basketball as I continued through basketball, becoming a coach was kind of nostalgic for me, I missed the feeling of being there in the Hillview gym and having the competitive feel in that middle school league, I feel like I’m experiencing those times in a different way now”. Besides giving the kids a good experience, Shen just wants to “Get Ws and get money with my kids” as they go through the season.
Shen and Keare both wish to continue watching, playing, and coaching in the future. Shen said: “I plan to look for opportunities to play in college, whatever it is: intramural, some random gym, I’ll keep playing for sure”.