ATLANTA — The North Clayton High girls basketball team was fourth in the region last year and are fighting their way to get back to the top this year.
Being 6-3 overall and 4-3 in the league, the Lady Eagles are gaining confidence and playing hard.
“I make everybody feel like leaders,” head coach Fred Hill said about his team. “I don’t want them looking for anybody else to lead them, I want them to understand how to lead and how to speak up.”
Coaching straight out of college, Hill knows that playing basketball is more than just a physical sport but a mental one.
“I can only coach if they are ready mentally,” Hill said. “Once they understand it’s a science to it — it’s not just about the ability to put a ball in the rim. It’s a science to shooting the backboard, and a science to playing defense. The little details count and a lot of us miss that.”
Hill has made sure to instill life lessons into his athletes that they are more than just a team but they are a family. He wants to make sure that they are not only practicing basketball but are involved in each other’s lives.
The team goes out together and do fun activities, like bowling or arcade games, they even go to church together sometimes to bring them closer together as a team.
Hill has followed his son from elementary through high school and mentions that when his son graduated from North Clayton High School, he was supposed to leave the school system and go back to coaching college. The hold up that’s stopped him from that is simple — he feels his work isn’t done at North Clayton.
A lot of his girls weren’t ready for him to leave yet, so he stayed. He has built connections with not only the girl’s team but with the men’s team as well. During gym class, a lot of players come to ask for guidance. He also follows some other the students as they play in other sports like track, cross country and swimming.
Champion’s MVP Character Water has been a vision of Hill’s for about 17 years. He participated in ‘Ballers against Violence,’ where he would speak to kids against violence and the idea was born. He saw how Vitamin Water was good for people but did nothing powerful for anybody, so he decided to launch Champion Water to not only to replenish but to empower.
He has five different character bottles with words like, respect, success and sportsmanship on them with definitions to explain what those words mean, he’s also placed encouraging words on the bottles as well. His bottles are proof that a little encouragement can go a long way.
When his girls lost to Henry County, they took the labels off the bottle and hung them up or would refill their bottles to keep looking at it.
“Them seeing those words, made them want to be and play fearless,” Hill said. “It made them gain confidence and start playing better.”
Hill is aiming for Champion Water to host an alumni game Jan. 21, 2019 between rivals North Clayton High School and Riverdale High School, a school where Hill also coached.