I am sure that the Curry, Durant, and James families had to start their children from somewhere, and I am sure it involved a form of rec league basketball in the old gymnasiums across the United States. That is where our parks department steps in providing youth sports for those who want to experience the game at a young age.
I remember playing games at St. James gym with the parks and recreation league when I was a youngster. The best player on our team was Suzanne Pettrey (Bishop) who would later play basketball for Washington-Irving High School as well as the Lady Mounties of “Dub Vee.”
Fast forward to today and things are pretty much the same. Harrison County Parks and Recreation offers a rec league basketball program to kids between the ages of 5-8. Roughly 80 kids signed up for the two-month program. The teams are chosen based on the location of the child’s school as compared to having clinics and rating kids for a draft.
“It is a pretty easy way of handling the teams,” said Recreation Director Jack Cann, who runs the league. “We get on average between 8-11 kids on the roster and it has been working out pretty well. The kids know each other from the neighborhoods and schools so the shyness factor is somewhat eliminated from the start.”
Staffing has been pretty good as most are players from the high school level. A couple players played ball at the college level as well. All have experience working with their coaches through high school and know the basics of basketball involving dribbling, passing and shooting. We have officials that help with the younger kids, and they tighten up things with the older group of kids.
For the first couple weeks, we had practice involving the fundamentals and then we set the team free for play. Along with four quarters of basketball with a running clock, they get breaks to run up to the parents, grab a drink and get a kiss from their mom. We keep it very loose here with this league as we want the kids to have a ton of fun and learn the game of basketball. Later down the road if they choose to continue playing, they can make it competitive.
“We want to expose the kids to the game of basketball and have fun,” said Cann. “We will provide all the tools needed to succeed and it is up to them to put in the work to make them a better player. We love that the kids are putting forth the effort and the results are showing each week we see them.”
Last week, the league took a pause just to recharge the batteries but opened back up this week and offered team photos for all teams and players. We are trying to run this league similarly to other competitive leagues, and little things like team photos are keepsakes players will have for life.