I guess I never took appreciation of middle school or youth coaches — that was until I watched a junior high ball game Monday.

Last night, I went to cheer on a friend, Maci Beaver, a sixth-grade student from Chaloner. Her Lady Jackets squad defeated the Davie Vikings, 32-13.

As low-scoring the game was, I’ve never been more intrigued or impressed with the level of play a group of youngsters were displaying.

The Jacket victors were as well coached as the Vikings.

Unlike high school games that I work, I didn’t take stats or write down scores...it’s a rarity for me to actually sit back and watch a game as just a spectator, but it’s something I do enjoy when I get the chance, no matter the level.

Chaloner defeated Davie handily. The near 20-point cushion the Jackets won by doesn’t show how much of a fight the Vikings put up.

Like I said earlier, I didn’t record stats, but I did take notice of the host’s free throw shooting. A few of those Davie girls shot better than some high school boys out there. And they had nothing but net.

As for Chandler, I saw girls marching up and down the court, shouting different offensive plays and defensive schemes with confidence.

Now that’s fun to watch. There’s nothing better than watching a girls team play with confidence, and they had a whole lot of it.

High school coaches refine and instill fundamentals, but it’s in middle school that athletes are introduced to the game — it’s those coaches that deserve more spotlight and recognition than they get.

I imagine being a middle school coach is far from glamorous. But the job role is necessary. It’s at that age the players are still in very raw form, they are molded at that young age. So a coach can make or break the future baller. It’s at that level that the kids learn the basics of the game – of any game for that matter.

I’ve seen the passion parents and fans display at a young level, including middle school and younger, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that coaches are just as passionate.

Coaches in a school setting aren’t paid well enough at all, no matter the level. It’s easy to say that these men and women aren’t doing it for the money. Props to them for taking the time to do what they do. And in case you’re unaware, the time spent goes far beyond games but practices, meetings and planning in their free time.

They may not play your kid as much as you want and they may not have a winning record, but put yourself in their shoes. Next time you see one, thank a coach.

Sarah Bloom is sports editor. She can be reached at sports@rrdailyherald.com