Gonzales youth basketball league coaches, police mentor, develop skills on and off the court | Ascent

Ground squealing is like any other game. But this game is different. The trophy for this particular game does not go to the team that scores the most baskets, but to everyone just for their participation.

In this game, the final game of the Badges for Basketball season, victory goes to those who learn to work well with others and develop life skills through mentorship with coaches and law enforcement officers. specially selected order.

Messages of support from coaches such as “push it” and “carry on” echoed in the gymnasium on May 23 as boys aged 12 to 15 pass, dribble and shoot in the gymnasium at Gonzales Middle School while parents, teachers and relatives encourage them.

“We don’t have our own space, so we have to rely on schools to provide the gymnasium,” said Lance Kohan, Gonzales’ recreation director. “Gonzales Middle School was very accommodating to our program. They bent over backwards to help us.”

Badges for Basketball, in its first year, is a product of the Gonzales Recreation Department and is funded by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, Kohan said. The foundation also funds a softball league for all abilities.

Seven volunteer coaches coached five teams of 10 players who met twice a week for the duration of the season which started at the start of this year. The free program, which has been well received by the community, is expected to expand to include more players and volunteers with the construction of a creative arts and recreation center in Gonzales expected to be completed around the same time. next year, Kohan said.

Part of the league’s goal is to teach young men life skills, especially those who may not yet have a positive role model in their lives. Matching middle school and high school boys with role models in the form of specially selected and approved trainers and police officers.

The selected men teach the boys not only basketball, but also respect for others and themselves, as well as positive outlets for anger and other complex emotions.

“A lot of these kids are angry. I have never met such angry children,” said one of the coaches, Charles Maurice. “It gives me the opportunity to frame them and try to get to the bottom of the issue of their anger.”

Maurice, a fencing company owner and pipe fitter, started coaching his own son over two decades ago. Although he has no children who participate in the league, he goes to Gonzales out of love for the game and the children he mentors.

“I like it as a constructive outlet for them to come here,” Maurice said. “It’s better for them to release it here than anywhere else.”

Another element of the program is to connect children with local law enforcement to emphasize respect for authority, as well as encourage community engagement. As the name suggests, Gonzales Police Department officers, one of the officers, Tyson Dennis, said.

“We target kids who need a little more attention, who have behavioral issues and show them there is a better way and not to be afraid of the police,” said Dennis, who has been involved in city league basketball for the past ten years. , said. “We are your friends. Don’t get me wrong, we will do what we have to do, but there is no division between us.

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The league is also not limited to boys who will continue to play basketball in high school. Instead, it gives kids who may not have the opportunity to continue their basketball careers after college the opportunity to continue learning during their formative years, while allowing them to continue to compete with their peers.

But winning is not the important part; learning and training are, observed the mother of a sixth grade boy.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on developing skills and techniques for the guys that are lacking. A lot of coaching is needed to build their confidence,” said Christie Spohn, a teacher at Gonzales Middle. play the game, the guys are there to have fun and the coaches encourage that.We laugh throughout all the games with the referees and the coaches.

The laughter and supportive nature of the audience is part of the positive environment the league is designed to cultivate, where failure is greeted not with cries of disdain but with positive but stern advice.

Unlike other youth leagues where umpires can be viewed as antagonists to parents, Badges for Basketball’s LHSOA-sanctioned umpires attempt to change the role of umpires in youth sports.

“We’re very talkative and hands-on with the kids, very approachable for them to ask us questions,” said Jerrell Parker, one of the two referees in the last game.

Referees act as additional mentors for players, said Kelvin Jenkins, who has refereed with Parker for more than a decade. They engage children in their lives outside of court, quiz them about their grades and future goals, as well as court fundamentals like rule interpretation.

“It gives us the opportunity to tell them some of the finer things that most people take for granted,” Jenkins said. “We can see a kid who may not be the best in his team, but it’s an opportunity to learn teamwork or sportsmanship.”

At the end of each of the two games played on the last night of the season, the players received backpacks as congratulations for completing the program. Even children a whole head or two smaller than their peers, who may struggle to keep up, are celebrated.

“You just have to commit,” Spohn said.

It’s not just a celebration of the boys’ accomplishments on the pitch, but also of their character and receptivity to mentorship.

“It’s not just about winning,” Dennis said. “It’s about teaching the basics and building character, teaching you how to work with other people. Because that’s life, you have to work with people at different levels.

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