Roseville officer is cop, coach, communicator
Adelante High School's basketball team suffered several heartbreaking defeats, often losing by a single point.
They missed competing in the playoffs. But their final record doesn't accurately reflect their solid play, especially once they came together as a team toward the end of the eight-week season, said Coach Jed O'Rourke.
"I like to say we were the best team with the worst record in the league," he said.
O'Rourke is also a Roseville Police officer and has served as the campus's Youth Services Officer since the start of the school year, but it wasn't until he became the basketball coach that he really starting building strong relationships with the youth.
Adelante's men's basketball team competes against continuation schools in the greater Sacramento area and games were held every Friday at a campus in North Highlands with volunteer referees. But for many of the athletes, this wasn't their first time on the court.
Senior Aaron Marshall played center - the big man down low - because he's tall and strong and can rebound. He previously played on Granite Bay High School's basketball team.
"I think we had a great season regardless of what our record is," Marshall said. "I got a lot closer to certain people I wouldn't have been friends with otherwise. We became like family. When we figured out how much love we had together, it was an epiphany."
O'Rourke describes Marshall as "the most respectful guy on the team." Building that respect was a key goal for the officer. Some of the players wouldn't even make eye contact with their coach at the season's start because they'd had previous negative interactions with law enforcement.
O'Rourke worked to build trust with his players. He wore his uniform to the games to illustrate the police department's support of youth in the community. As a Youth Services Officer, he maintains safety on campus and works with administrators. He also develops positive relationships with students.
"I would go outside and throw the ball around and the kids would always interact with me on the court," O'Rourke said.
When Adelante needed a coach, they knew just whom to ask. But the last time O'Rourke coached basketball was a decade ago. Throughout the season, he learned how to approach each teenager differently - some needed encouragement and others needed tough love.
O'Rourke got on their case about attending school and practice every day. The team lost some players to suspension or arrest.
"Some of these guys just need a reason to come to school and be at school all week to play. It's a good motivation," he said.
The guys learned teamwork and developed a sense of pride and team spirit that grew as the season progressed.
"It was great," said junior Nick Alsey. "We didn't have a good record, but we played well as a team."
Alsey played forward and is a strong shooter. He said his teammates didn't just throw air balls - they passed and ran plays.
"It was better than I thought it was going to be," said senior and shooting guard Kyle Forshee. "We got better as the games went on and we started clicking at the end of the season."
As for Coach O'Rourke, he had to learn to keep his competitive side in check and not embarrass his team by cheering too much. But the guys appreciated his passion.
"(He) did motivate us to do better," Forshee said.
Sena Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.