Haywood High School Boys Basketball – Growth Mindset

There’s a tried and true cliche in sports that goes something like this: only one team at the end of every season is happy.

The idea is that every team but one will end the season with a loss.  In high school sports, there can only be one state champion per classification.  Every other team will wrap their season on the losing end of the scoreboard.  

The Haywood Tomcats final game last season still lingers in the minds of the team, but those lingering thoughts are only added fuel for the upcoming season.  Taking a double digit lead into halftime against Crockett County, the Tomcats sputtered in the second half and ended up losing a game they felt they should’ve won.  Coach Rodney Chatman has watched his players grow and develop over the summer all the while using that final game from last season as motivation.

“The way last season ended for our guys just made them hungrier.  I think some losses can be bad, but I think that one was good.  Guys are using this as motivation,” Coach Chatman said.

The Tomcats lost only one senior last season and are loaded with veteran players at important positions.  Coach Chatman is also beginning his fourth year at the helm of the team which has provided consistency and allowed players to be comfortable within the system.

“This is my fourth year as head coach. Players are comfortable in our system. On offense, I don’t really have to say anything; they get into the sets easily on their own. On defense, though, we change things up a lot.,” he said.

Not only have the Tomcats been working hard on the court during the summer and fall, they’ve also added something new to their off-season training regimen: weight training.

“This year, we’ve started weight training for our basketball team,” Coach Chatman said “Coach (Logan) Rebstock put together a program for us, and I can already tell it’s making a difference.  We’re doing full body workouts.  Our guys are playing through contact better; they’re more explosive. I’ve got guys dunking now that could never dunk before.”

While the roster might be deep for the Tomcats this season, like most seasons, they won’t start with their full team due to another deep playoff run by the Tomcat football team.

“We’ll be four guys short on opening night because we have guys still playing football,” Coach Chatman said. “I’m used to it now, so our motto is ‘next man up.’ In Haywood, we know our football team is going to have deep playoff runs every year, so we’re used to not having our full team early in the season.”

As the football players trickle back to the team sometime in early December, the Tomcats will be preparing for some stiff competition and an out of district schedule that rivals any other program’s in West Tennessee. The Tomcats will travel to Memphis over Thanksgiving break and then to Missouri for a tournament over Christmas Break where they will play some of the toughest competition in the region.

“We’re playing some tough competition early this year. We’re playing Memphis and Poplar Bluff over Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The speed of the game is different against that kind of competition. The athletes are bigger and faster.  When you play better competition, it makes you better,” he said.

Like most coaches, Coach Chatman knows the value in playing top competition before the district schedule kicks into full gear in January. He also knows how important it is to practice the fundamentals and make sure the Tomcats play to their strengths on the floor, the primary strength being scoring the basketball.

“I think we’re loaded on the offensive side of the basketball; I think we can score with anyone,” he said. “I want all five spots on the floor to be able to shoot the ball and handle the ball. That’s very important to what we want to do as a team. If all five guys on the floor can handle the ball, an opposing team can’t pressure you.”  

Shooting has been an emphasis for the Tomcats this offseason because it was an area where Coach Chatman saw room for improvement.  Even this summer, free throws were a thorn in the side of the team in a few summer league games.

“Last year, I think we missed a lot of open shots we should’ve hit.  We’ve worked a lot on shooting this off-season.  We also spent a lot of time on free throws. Free throws hurt us in some games last year,” he explained. “This summer we played some of the best competition in Memphis and we won two of the four games we played, but we would’ve won all of them had we shot better from the free throw line.”

As fun and exciting as offense can be to play and watch, Coach Chatman knows the end of the floor where games and titles are won: the defensive end.

“On defense, we’ve got to get stops. If we can get stops when we need them on defense, we’ll be able to score enough to win a lot of games,” he said. “Playing defense is a mentality; you have to want to play it.”

With the Tomcats ready to tip-off at home on Saturday, November 19, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the upcoming season. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of sports in Haywood County even if the basketball team isn’t quite at full strength yet.

“By the time our district schedule starts, we’ll be firing on all cylinders,” Coach Chatman said.