Former players join coaching staff at Alta
Coaching was not on their radar anytime soon—if ever. Yet two former Alta basketball players are now at the helm of the Hawk sophomore basketball team.
Zach Runia and Jed DeLeeuw were given the assignment to oversee the sophomore team by varsity coach Jim Barker. And it isn’t an easy task, as the freshmen and sophomores that make up the team must learn the program and structure of Alta basketball.
“They had been around the players in our program through preseason stuff we had done,” Barker said. “I thought about it for a while, and felt like they could make a huge contribution to our program.”
Runia, a Draper resident now attending Utah Valley University, graduated from Alta in 2008. He was a starting guard his senior year and helped on varsity and junior varsity as a sophomore and junior. He moved to Utah prior to his freshman year, and was instrumental that year in bringing Indian Hills Middle School its first championship trophy in the ninth-grade basketball league.
“I grew up loving basketball, and played it all my life,” Runia said. “I still love the game, and helping coach keeps me involved in it.”
DeLeeuw graduated one year later, in 2009. He was also a starting guard for the Hawks.
“We got to be close friends during our school years,” Runia said of the pair. “We did a lot of things together and still hang out all the time.”
To that end, the two would come to Alta’s open gym program in the fall months. Open gym is a program at Alta where anyone interested in playing basketball for the Hawks can come to the gym and hone their skills. It is prior to tryouts, and anyone can come play.
Enter Runia and Deleeuw who would come and play ball with the potential newcomers. It helped keep their game up, while their experiences helped polish the new players.
“We liked to come and play because it is our old program, and we had some great memories in that gym,” Runia said.
It was at one of the open gym sessions Barker approached the pair about the idea of coaching. They quickly jumped at the chance.
“We had to do some on line training and classes to certify ourselves to work with youth,” Runia said. “Other than that, all the training has come from what we remember of how coaches Barker, (Tony) Cannon and (Curtis) Hill coached us in high school. We just remember what we learned from them in the past and apply it to the practices and games.”
Because neither wanted to overshadow the other as the “head” coach, the two settled on a compromise. Runia handles the decision making at home games, while Deleeuw takes over the helm for road games.
Although new at coaching, the two seem to have a knack for it. Their team has an 11-4 record at press time.
“Every game, I get more comfortable at what I am doing,” Runia said. “I learn what works and what doesn’t and how to motivate. But I also know I am not just coaching a game. I am also teaching these young men life lessons they can keep after their playing days are over.”
Although Runia is studying public relations at UVU, he may keep his hand in the coaching arena.
“I don’t think I will ever make it a permanent job,” he said. “But I am having fun helping these kids, and hope I can do the same in the future.”