Whitehorse girls coach Joni Dickson discusses chemistry, confidence, and being a threat to opponents

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
With two weeks of the new 2022-23 season in the books, the Whitehorse girls basketball team is still looking for their first win. But they are battling hard and have kept most of their games close right down to the finish.
Raider Head Coach Joni Dickson, who is entering her second year at the helm, recently responded to several questions I sent via email. Here are her comments:
San Juan Record: What is your approach to coaching the team this season?
Joni Dickson: “Unity in Adversity” is our motto for this season because this year we are fighting together to overcome any obstacles we may face. Teams become family when they work together, celebrate together, and fight for one another.
SJR: Tell me about your assistant coaches.
JD: Derick [Dickson] is coming back as the junior varsity coach, as well as the program’s strength and conditioning coach. We also have Yolynbah Blackwater and Derica Valdez assisting at practices to help give 1-on-1 coaching to the players in order to build their skill levels. We appreciate the time these coaches give to support our Lady Raiders.
SJR: It’s still very early in the season, but tell me about your team.
JD: We have two returning varsity seniors who will have the role of building the team’s chemistry. We have underclassmen with a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of who’s willing to step up, gain confidence, and be a leader on the court.
SJR: What are your initial thoughts and feelings on the season?
JD: After playing at the 1A Preview, it showed us our strengths and what areas need more improvement. The year off from Covid is still hurting our experience. We are a young team.
SJR: Talk about the players who are returning this season.
JD: This year we have Shelby Vasku and Shania Mitchell coming back as varsity starters. We expect these second-year returning players to become the leaders of this team and create the chemistry on and off the court.
We also have Shunbaah Begay, LaMyia Benally, Laila Etsitty, and Kadence Lansing who all have varsity experience from last year. We would like for them to step up and fill in the roles of the seniors we lost last year.
SJR: What new players are stepping up?
JD: We have some talented underclassmen who we believe will be assets to the varsity team.
SJR: What do you think your strength(s) will be this season?
JD: I am confident that our defense is the strength we are building this team around. We, as a team, also believe that communication is also a strength.
SJR: What things do you think you’ll have to work on the most?
JD: We would like to see our players learn advanced defensive skills, advanced offensive skills, and the importance of being patient. A lot of our players are used to running the court. It’s natural for them. We would like to expose them to a different style of play which is structured, organized basketball. We want to be a threat by knowing multiple styles of basketball.
SJR: What are your expectations on the season this year?
JD: Instead of giving you MY expectations, we discussed this as a team. Our players want to have a winning season. Like any other team, they want to fight for a state championship. At the end of this season our team wants to know that they have walked on and off the court as a family.
SJR: What would you like to accomplish as a team?
JD: As a team, we would like to show improvement in areas we need more work. We would like to continue to build our communication and trust, and learn unselfish basketball. Our goal is create a unity in our chemistry in order to win together.

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