HELENA — Every new season poses new challenges for head coaches, especially new head coaches. That’s the situation that Ben Dudek finds himself in as the new Helena High girls basketball head coach juggling a new program in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just a little more than 24 hours after he stepped out on the court for the first time taking official control of the program, Dudek was candid about the fact that he was slightly nervous.
"I was feeling a little nerves. I think whenever you step into a new situation, there's always the little nerves, kind of like the first game that you walk into a new program, new situation for me. So, you know, a little bit of that. I think COVID adds a little bit of those nerves to it as well -- wanting to make sure that we do everything as safe as we possibly can for the students," Dudek said prior to the Bengals' second tryout. "But at the same time, extremely exciting to be able to step into something that I've wanted for a long time. Kind of the first whistle that was blown, I was ready to go, and then it was just two hours of stuff that I've been doing most of my life."
While this year is unlike most with the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term goal of many teams is still the same: to win a state title. For right now, in the short-term, Dudek just wants to ensure his team is competitive.
"The No. 1 goal is to be competitive, is to put a competitive team out there every year, and whether that leads to 12 wins in a year or whether it leads to eight wins in a year, to be competitive is the No. 1 goal. So we design practices in order for our girls to continue to be competitive year to year," said Dudek.
Dudek and the Helena High girls basketball team will have nearly a month before their first scheduled game on Jan. 7, 2021 when the Bengals host the Missoula Hellgate Knights.