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Olson keen to help develop Marshall Islands basketball

GOLD COAST (Australia) - Jessica Olson has big dreams for Marshall Islands Basketball on and off the court.

Olson, a basketball coach at Lakeside Junior High School in Springdale, Arkansas is juggling her time between work and commitment to the Marshall Islands Basketball Federation.

"I started playing basketball from a young age because I looked up to my father who was a coach. It was only fitting that my passion as a player carried over to a coaching role," Olson shared in regards to her coaching pursuit.

The Marshall Islands national team representative shared that basketball is the most popular sport in the island country, but is mostly focused on the men's division.

"Basketball is pretty huge in the islands, its the most popular by far. They would fly some teams from other islands to compete and the games are crowded. But women tend to play volleyball as the main sport," shared Olson, who played in the 2014 and 2018 Micronesian Games.

"I guess you can say women's basketball is in the developmental stages, but the Federation is doing a good job in promoting the game in the country" she added.

Photo: Olson in action during the 2018 Micronesian Games

Olson, who played varsity basketball for the Kansas Wesleyan University was a participant in the 2020 FIBA Oceania Tournament Coaches Course and shared that she plans to use her knowledge and experience to help develop future coaches in the Marshall Islands.

"I was fortunate enough to join the TCC as a representative for the Marshall Islands and it was a great experience for me because I have learned a lot during the workshops with my fellow coaches," she shared.

"I was planning to organize clinics based on the programs we discussed this summer but unfortunately the pandemic happened," she added.

The Physical Education teacher based in Arkansas stated that she led youth basketball camps in 2016 and 2018 during her visits to the country.

"I was able to head a couple of youth basketball camps in 2016 and 2018 but I think for future camps I want to help the Federation organize a coaching course. We want to get people who are interested in coaching the Micro Games and share them everything I've learned so far as a coach," said Olson.

"We have to develop a good coaches program and share different types of training, philosophies and principles so we can start young in developing future players," she added.

Olson hopes that the improved performance of the Women's team will garner more support and exposure in the future and she plans to do it as a player and coach.

"We won the Silver medal in the 2018 Micro Games and targeting for a better result in 2022. As a player I hope we can achieve that goal and as a coach, I hope I can help build a program that can develop young coaches who will teach the game efficiently at the grassroots level. Ultimately we want basketball in the Islands to get to the next level and that is to qualify to bigger tournaments and boost the local interest in women's basketball moving forward," she shared.