Wesley Jackson walks a fine line between dad and coach.
The Polk County JV basketball head coach and varsity assistant does both from a purely volunteer standpoint, stepping up when Polk County badly needed someone to fill those positions.
His son Aaron, a standout sophomore for the Wolverines, had a quick answer as to when that line blurs, and when Wesley stops being Coach and starts being Dad.
“Never,” Aaron said with a laugh. “He’s both, all the time.”
That’s nothing new for the Jacksons. They’re used to being on the court together. And with a program that’s experiencing some growing pains, Wesley is a familiar face for a lot of players.
“I’ve been coaching in rec for about 13 years,” he explained. “I got into helping with the middle school a couple of years ago, and I guess I just kind of fell into it. I don’t think they had many people who wanted to take the position, so I just kind of filled in. I know a lot of these boys who are in school right now, so I’m just trying to be there for them.”
That stability has been important this season, in a year that’s been particularly unstable. Head coach Daniel Bradley also stepped in to help when the program needed him. To compound the upheaval, circumstances have kept the Wolverines from putting the same lineup on the court this season.
That fact, though, is something Aaron isn’t willing to use as an excuse.
“I feel like if we work as a team a little more, it won’t matter,” Aaron said. “But we haven’t had the same team on the court in games this year, at all.”
That, and limited reserves, leads to a different style. Aaron, for example, is a long, rangy player who can play a little physically at times. However, he knows he needs to be on the floor, and can’t afford foul trouble.
“I just play straight up, honestly,” he said. “I try not to jump into people. Sometimes, there are bad calls, but you have to be smart. Keep your hands up, keep your hands off, mostly stuff like that.”
The Jacksons see a bright future for the Wolverines, but know it will take work and time to get there.
“I feel like we’re building toward something,” Wesley said. “I don’t think it’s going to be done overnight. It’s going to be a process. But we’re definitely working. Just having different people at different times, practicing combined, it’s hard to adjust to whoever’s playing at that point and what you need to do. But I think we’re building toward a good future.”
Wesley sees some particular potential in his JV squad. With the varsity team needing available hands, the JV squad has learned to adapt and to fill the roles expected of them.
“We have some young guys who need work, and we probably should have been more aggressive in the middle school stages, to be honest,” Wesley said. “But they’re learning. And that’s the main key on JV. My starting five, I think they’ll be ready for next year, and the others are coming along. If we can get the fundamentals locked up, I think we’ll be alright.”
In the present, though, father and son are enjoying their time together on the court.
“We’ve been doing it since he was five years old, so it’s not anything new,” Wesley said. “It’s just a thing in our family. There’s another one coming behind.”
Nobody knows Aaron’s game better than Wesley. He’s watched him develop for years. So he knows what he wants to see.
“I push him, because I know he can be great,” Wesley said. “He’s got potential. He could definitely play college ball someday. I know what he can do, I’ve seen it, so I push him for everything he’s worth. He knows at the end of the day that I love him.”
Aaron appreciates that coaching style.
“I do,” he said. “It makes me better for sure.”
It can make the Wolverines better, too.
“If we can get everybody on the same page, I think we’ll be a solid program,” Wesley said. “The main thing is to get more kids out here.”