By Ker’Shyra Myrick
When Erik Nilsen went to a National Alliance for Youth Sports conference last year in Orlando, he was excited to learn about the different Start Smart Sports Development programs, especially for basketball.
“Once I heard about the Start Smart Basketball program I became very interested,” said Nilsen, executive director of West Boca (Fla.) Basketball. “After I learned about the program and what it could do, I knew it was right for our organization. We’ve always wanted to expand and offer a younger league, and with Start Smart we have been able to do just that.”
With a boys and girls basketball league ranging from ages 5 to 18, the Start Smart Basketball program has allowed West Boca Basketball the ability to start a league for kids as young as ages 3 to 5.
“We kept it smaller, to about 20 kids for our first season,” Nilsen said. “We have had a lot of the parents say they were immediately signing their kids up for the next season. With the success of the program and all of the great feedback, we have decided to do two sessions per season.”
With more than 1,200 kids in the league, West Boca has found a way to keep the older kids involved and the younger kids engaged.
“We started a volunteer program for those who need volunteer hours in high school,” Nilsen said. “The older kids who sign up help us teach the little ones the basics of the game. They all enjoyed it so much and cannot wait to come back to coach next season.”
Having students of the game become teachers of the game has had a positive impact on those both teaching and learning. When an athlete learns new skills, they are expanding their skill set and becoming better athletes.
And deriving more enjoyment from their participation.
“We saw a lot of kids improve their dribbling skills, along with ball handling,” Nilsen said. “Shooting was one of the tougher areas. They always want to shoot, but it can be hard to teach them at that age.”
The Start Smart Basketball program has also proven to be beneficial for parents by getting them involved in volunteering and coaching in their kids’ sports programs.
“We did use this as a way to see if we could get more coaches for our league,” Nilsen said. “This was a little interview for us with the parents who became involved. We started asking if they would like to volunteer. Some parents saw this as an opportunity to connect and have play time with their kids; some used it as a way to get their kids better at certain skills; and others just wanted to have fun.”
With kids having fun and learning a new sport, there were many special moments that stood out and made the entire season worthwhile.
“The last weekend of the program we held a scrimmage so the parents could see their kids in a competitive type environment,” Nilsen said. “The parents really enjoyed seeing the kids play, and the kids were so excited to be on the court showing off what they had learned. That was really the icing on the cake for all of us.”
Preparing kids for sports is what the Start Smart programs are all about. This innovative step-by-step approach builds confidence and self-esteem in a fun and safe sports environment.
“I would recommend this program to anyone looking to expand their current league, like we did,” Nilsen said. “The Start Smart program enabled us to reach more kids and add more coaches. That has helped us within our community.”Start Smart Basketball West Boca Skills Development Confidence
National Alliance for Youth Sports, Inc
2050 Vista Parkway
West Palm Beach, Florida 33411
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