A non-profit youth sports organization targeting underprivileged youth. Great idea. But can I do it?

        I live in a Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It is a lower income city, in the northeastern  part of the state. We are about 15 minutes from Scranton and about 90 minutes from Philadelphia. At one point it used to be a nice place to live but over the years it has become crime ridden. In fact it is number 18 on the list of top murder cities, did I say that right. Everyday the drug use and crime seems to sucking up another kid and spit them out. There isn’t an inexpensive   place for a kid to play and learn fundamentals in a sport. The cheapest  basketball is $50 bucks at the CYC, a place where the refs told me if they called every foul there would be no score. This is an instructional  league. Any type of travel team or AAU  team gets very expensive. Many of the kids around here are unable to play because of their financial  situation. You would think the YMCA or CYC or someone  would offer a spring program or summer program at an affordable  price. They do not. Nor does the city. I wrote my Congressman Matt Cartwright  several days ago asking him for some direction  and he never responded. Who is there for these kids?

         I want to start a non-profit  youth sports organization  for underprivileged  children. I want to concentrate  on 2 sports, basketball and soccer. Those are the 2 sports you need the least amount of equipment for. Less money for families to spend. I want to offer these kids an option other then drugs, drinking, fighting, gangs or whatever else they may get into. I want to offer a kid the same opportunity  a wealthy kid gas, why punish a child for a parents station in life. I see so many incredible athletes who lack the fundamentals of their sport. For basketball at the CYC, you get 1 hour of practice a week. You get the privilege of playing school teams who practice quite a bit more. Many kids spirits are crushed because of this. A kid who I’d fundamentally sound can compete with less talent, causing that kid to carry better grades, stay out of trouble and stick with their commitment. I don’t think we should be getting wealthy off of kids playing sports, AAU and travel soccer teams. Why aren’t the kids coming first?

          I want to be able to defer cost through federal, state and corporate grants. I want this to focus completely on the forgotten youths of a dying city. Anyone who has played a sport will tell you that it helps you in many other aspects of life. You learn a work ethic, discipline, teamwork, confidence and make lasting friendships. Through all of this you avoid trouble or you cannot play or be with these friends. Some kids can get an athletic scholarship because of this, some will get an academic  scholarship because they work harder to keep good grades because they want to play and go to college. It changes how many kids life daily. Why not offer a program that helps them?

         When the kids would enter are program there will be certain obligations  they must meet for us to defer their costs.
1) They must maintain a B average in school. If I a kid needs help, I would like to offer a tutoring program. Education is the key.
2) They must stay out of trouble. Any detention or suspension will be met with the same at our program. If it us a continuing problem we will refer it to a facility to help. We will try not to leave a kid behind. But they must realize there are repercussions for your actions.
3) They will be required to do volunteer work at a soup kitchen or any other program that requires volunteers to help the needy. To teach them empathy, compassion  and remind them that there are people who have it worse. After my daughter did these with the Key Club at G.A.R. High School she couldn’t wait to go back to help again.
4) To participate and help organize community outreach programs periodically. Several times a year. Anything to reach out to help those less fortunate, even if it is a free basketball or soccer tournament. Through this they will hopefully take pride in their community and look for ways to help improve it.
5) Summer programs and clinics that the kids can help teach. Teach them to give to others in order to help them improve their situation.
Most importantly I want to keep them off the street and out of trouble. Have impromptu  3 on 3 basketball  tournaments, 5 on 5 soccer tournaments. For those that want to play AAU or travel soccer, we will offer those programs but ask the kids to hand out flyers or participate  in fund eaising, all with a qualified adult present. I would like in the summer to offer child care to low income families. Several hours a day. Introduce them to a sport, get them outside and active. Have dodge ball tournaments. We need to fight childhood  obesity  as well.

            I would also like to offer affordable clinics for coaches. Youth coaches effect a child more then many people realize. It would help if they had proper training that didn’t eat up a lot of their time or money. Youth coaches are typically volunteers. They deserve some thanks in this grueling process. The better the coach, the better chance a child has. I want to build a facility  with several indoor courts, several outdoor courts, 2 high school size soccer fields and 2 small children soccer fields. Maybe I am being naive, but I believe this is needed where I live and in most other areas. Why can’t we be the template everyone else follows? I know some areas offer something similar to this. Now is the time for Wilkes-Barre  to offer it.   If you want to take your community back, wouldn’t this be a great jumping off point? Now to figure out how to get it done. Any ideas?

Our 5th and 6th grade girls basketball season.

          I signed up to help coach my daughters basketball team this season. It was my second time coaching basjetball, my first was coaching a 7th and the grade school team. For that school team we had 5 practices before the season started and 2 a week. Definitely  not enough to compete against teams practicing all week. Our team is a group of girls who were put together on a team. They recieve 1 hour of practice a week. Yet the we’re bumped into the school 5th and 6th grade league, against several schools who have practiced daily, as well as being together since 2nd grade. They were also cherry picked teams of the best kids they had. We were up against it.

         We begged and pleaded to get more practice time. We got 1 extra hour. Out of our 2 practice hours, one was on a half court. The only other team that practiced there had full court. Our head coach preferred to scrimmage and I prefer drills with rules in a scrimmage. During practice I would run drills to improve fundamentals ; dribbling, passing , shooting, boxing out, rebounding and off ball movement. I would try to combine them into one drill in order to make the most of our time. The only place we did not see dramatic improvement was our shooting. They jumped from 8 foot to 10 foot rims. The adjustment period has been tough on them. We worked on adjusting their shots  one girl double clutched every shot. Very difficult  to work with in 2 hours, but we made progress.

       Our 2-3 improved dramatically  over the season. First game all of our points were given up in transition. Our second group of girls had difficulty  learning the close out, then returning to their spot. Our guards played well, although they left the middle open quite a bit. Our center was very good but we were a team of 5th graders playing the majority of 6th graders. I know it seems like lame excuses, but their guards were taller then our center. We played well despite the odds. The kids never quit. We had 3 games where we got trounced and we were just over matched in those games. St season the 2 guards ran everywhere while the 3 down below stood there. It was a difficult learning curve for them. They shpwed a ton of improvement as the season went on. Very proud of them.

        Offensively we did not have much to build on. Last season the guards did the work while the big stood and watched. We taught themscreens, give and goes, V-cuts, pass and move and just general smart off ball movement . Because of the lack of time and their difficulty  understanding how to use a 1-3-1 to break the 2-3, we had to run some very generic movements. We referred to it as the curl and screen. The wings curl down under the basket to the other side. We would set a high screen and a low screen to cause the close out to fight through a screen. The only issue is we could not make our shots, otherwise it worked. We got a lot of open shots that were either air balled or bricked. One girl scored about half of our points, she took smart shots and worked into the middle. The big thing was the growth, they were setting screens, passing improved in games, shot selection for the most part was good and the dribbling improved. They also started doing things on their own. One quick example; they came down court, set the screens inside the top 2 in the zone, point guard dribbled in, drew in the defense and lob passed to our center. Who missed, but it was what we were looking for.

         We did win 1 game, suprisingly, even the guy in charge of the league was suprised  we won at all. All season we told them not to look at the score board, wins in 5th grade basketball are not important. This is where you set the foundation  for everything you do going forward in basketball , work ethic, attitude, skill and sportsmanship is built here. Throughout a 10 game season we went to the free throw line for 10 shots, yes 5 times total. Referees there were not good. It was a learning experience  for me, how to bend and mend in order to get 11 year olds to practice hard, to cement in their heads that you play like you practice. It clicked for some, others not so much. It was a season of growth, despite the fact I seem bitter, I am not. I am trying to be honest and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to being disappointed  in myself. I let them down at times, as all coaches do, my practices were not planned out properly, wasting precious time and I didn’t put my input in on out lineups, despite disagreeing with how we started the game. We will be playing in a few tournaments  against some of these good teams, yes it will be a learning experience  on how to grow and play for them. But as it is said, iron sharpens iron. The better we play against the more they improve.

Coaching 5th and 6th grade girls basketball.

         My youngest daughters basketball team joined a summer league. Her coach asked me for help and i gladly helped. My main objective was to get them as fundamentally sound as 1 practice every 2 weeks could get them. We worked on dribbling, boxing out, simple off ball movements, passing and how to move their feet on defense. We only had 4 or 5 kids at every practice. We taught them how to screen and specifically the high screen and roll. I really enjoyed every practice i did with them. What was being taught truly improved in those areas. I had the oppurtunity to coach one game this season. We played the best team in the league, who beat us 48-6 the first time. All of our kids are going into 5th grade and there is one going into 4th grade. The whole other team is going into 6th grade. Size difference was big.

There are 9 kids on the team and only 4 or 5 show for practice. Before the game i went over the Diamond full court press and the high pick and roll with the back door cuts. I didnt expect perfection. In fact I would have been happy with the pick and roll happening 10 times. The other team won the tip and drove right down and scored. On the inbounds we were pressed and any cut or inbound play that was taught went goodbye. We had 4 turnovers and went down 10-0. I was going to call a timeout but I figured with it being a summer league and learning experience let them play through it. We had several more turnovers, went down 18-0 when they finally calmed down. We inbounded, pushed up the court, ran a nice pick and roll but the ball was thrown out of bounds. We went into the diamond press and stole the ball, missed a layup, got the rebound then scored. The rest of the half was back and forth, very fast and sloppy. We were down 24-6 at the half.

At the half I just calmed them down, explained what went right and what went wrong. The list of wrong was a bit longer. I just tried to build their confidence up and play our game. I told them to play a high speed game and to keep running. Press, press, press and create turnovers. They started the second half with the score 0-0, it is an instructional league. I was impressed with how they did in the second half.

The other team came out and scored the first 5 points. I called a timeout and stressed helping each other on offense, setting a screen and off ball movement. From that point on we outscored them 10-8, still lost the half 13-10 and game 37-16 but I saw a lot of good things. The press worked great when they were all on the same page, about 3/4s of the time. Didnt create a turnover every time but we created a lot of traps and even a few designed 2 traps before half court. Ball handling and passing was still sloppy. But there were 6 high screens and 3 low screens, I was very impressed. Usually the guards do all the moving and the bigs stand and wait. Not my team. We created a lot of turnovers but had a lot in return. Free throw shooting, boxing out and rebounding were all strong. They just couldnt get the shot off low and didnt pass out. All in all we gave them a run in the second half, it was their closest half all season. The girls seem to get intimidated but we will fix that.

I know it was a loss and moral victories are a coach searching for good things but i honestly did see good things. They are improving. I have a long way to go as a basketball coach but I will do the work gladly. I was a little slow on some in game decisions and maybe stayed to long in the press but i thought it was our best shot. Make it a sloppy fast game and take them out of their offense. Second half was good, first not so much. I am trying for local high school coaching jobs so thing like this can only help. It was a trying, yet enjoyable experience.

Our last Soccer game.

        It took me awhile to write this because of the emotions of it all. This was going to be our last season together. When we took over these girls were lost on the field. We took a lot of time and work to get them right. They were really hard workers and a great group of girls. They were very upset about us leaving but it is time for a new voice. Our last game we played the team we played in our first game. The team that stacked their roster in last years Countu Cup. We beat them every other time but in that Cup game.

First quarter opened up with us with the ball. We dominated possession for the entire quarter, they only got in our attacking third once. Our passing was on point and our defenders were shutting everything down. Our left outside defender won the ball at midfield and pushed it up, sucking the defense in, then passing to our mid. Our mid hit a quick give and go with our forward who hit a beautiful cross to the other mid. She put in a beautiful shot over the goalie. Goal!!!! We were up 1-0. Despite our possession dominance we only had 4 shots on target to their zero.

Second quarter was the complete opposite. They dominated possession, mostly brcause of our sloppy play. The sloppy play was from our defenders to our mids. They won a lot of touches on our side of the field leading to a plethora of challenged shots. Our goalie played great. With about 2 minutes left our goalie punched a shot out, it rebounded off of a defenders back to one of their forwards. She kicked it, our goalie blocked again, bounced back to one of their girls who kicked it in off our goalies finger tips. Goal!!! They tied it up 1-1, through no fault of our goalie. As soon as we kicked to start off we started a quick back and forth passing attack. Everyone of our attackers touched the ball, our mid took the shot from the 18 and put it right past the goalie. Goal!!!! We went ahead 2-1. They had 9 shots on goal to our 2, but we were still ahead.

Third quarter opened up and we were back in charge. We were wearing them down. They had 2 subs but had an ankle injury early in the third and a girl got hit in the belly by a kicked ball and had to go to the hospital. Early in the third we got one of our rare breakaways. Our forward made the best of it. She faked out two girls hit a shot from inside the box that made the goalie look silly. Goalie went in the wrong direction, it was a perfect shot. Goal!!!! We went up 3-1. We continued wearing them down with good passing and shots, their goalie played well. We had 5 shots on goal to their 2.

At the end of the third quarter their girls were walking off the field. I told my girls to jog off, which they did, further demoralizing them. We started off the fourth in dominating fashion. Our defender stole the ball, started pushing up the sideline, passed to our mid who beat one girl. She then crossfield passed to our other mid who hit a cross to the far post where our forward touched it in. Goal!!!! We were up 4-1. Minutes later we stole it at midfield our mid chipped it forward and our forward won the break and shot it past the goalie. Goal!!!!! 5-1 we were up. We moved our defenders up to forward and mid, put the goalie out there on the field and I told them to substitute for whoever they wanted. These girls were uncomfortable with that. We had 10 shots on goal to their zero. Most were by our defenders.

We ended up 4-2-2 playing up a year. Both our losses were 1-0. We even tied a travel team. This was an awesome group of girls. For all they learned from me, they helped me through a bad time in my life. I have had 6 surgeries on my back and cannot do much of what i used to do. I found a calling, found my way through my depression and helped these kids on and off the field. For me, I love coaching but I dislike dealing with parents who cant get their kids to practice. That bothers me and lets down their teammates. I am trying to coach either basketball or soccer at the high school level. I will miss all of this girls dearly. I hope what we taught helps them in the future. I look forward to reading about their sports exploits in the paper. This chapter is closed, on to the next. Currently I am helping out with a girls 5th and 6th grade basketball team. I am enjoying that and have made significant progress with the girls. Will write about that soon. Thanks.

My plan for our Basketball team.

       It is the second season our school has had a 7 and 8 grade girls team.  Last year they scored one basket the whole season. They didnt much direction. They had 2 practices a week, just like we did. They had 3 practices before the season,   we had 5. The teams we play against practice 5 days a week and had a month of preseason conditioning. To say we were behind the 8 ball is an understatement.

Upon speaking with the athletic director we are trying to get more practice time. We do not have our own gym yet. We have seen significant improvement from most of our players, in most areas of the game. They work hard, play hard and take coaching for the most part. It hasn’t been easy, but i have started a plan. We started an offense and have begun to outline our practice plan for next season. It has been a rough season, but I have learned quite a bit.

To start the preseason we are going to work fundamentals, as any coach would. Then we will install our 2 offenses. We are going to run a 3-2 motion offense, with a high-low post and backdoor cutters. It is a little hard to teach at first, but once it clicks it is good. It depends quite a bit on screens and your players reading the defense. Our zone offense will be a 1-3-1. The key is the girl on the free throw line and the girl underneath. Both players need to move to the ball side, the underneath player needs to creep behind the defense. We have worked quite a bit on the press break, but oily t hasn’t completely clicked yet.

Defensively I want to stick with a 2-3 defense. When we use it our perimeter defends well but our backline does not rotate quick enough. I prefer this defense because of the lack of athleticism. The head coach prefers a 1-3-1 defense. I think it is a gimmick defense, it works well when it works, but when it doesn’t it doesn’t. We have been putting the girls in a man to man defense to teach them personal responsibility. It has worked in that regard, but it exposes our lack of athleticism. I prefer to press with the guards and have our 3 at half court.

Transition defense has hurt us really bad. We have one girl who gets back. I have to make that a focus from day one. With a year of experience under our belt we will be in a better place to begin next season. The program hasn’t gotten a win yet. I hope next year to get that win. But we shall see.

Our Basketball season up to now.

I knew we were in for a difficult season. We had about 5 practices before the season and zero preseason conditioning. It was our schools second year fielding a team and my first year coaching basketball.Our head coach has coached for awhile but it was only younger kids.

Our school had a combined budget of $5,000 for the girls and boys programs. We do not have our own gym, so we had to practice elsewhere. Between that and transportation our budget was gouged. We had 2 hour and half practices a week. I worked in as much fundamentals as I could. The head coach wants constant scrimmage. We get nothing out of them because there was nothing in place to work with.

The head coach wanted her kid to be the star. I had to inform her that she was not our best player. We also have a child who refuses coaching. If anything is said to her, she immediately takes it as a personal attack. When we took measures to curb her attitude and lax practice habits, her mother went on the attack. When she didnt get the right answer from the head coach, she went to the athletic director, when he didnt givec the right answer she went to the principal, who entertained her thereby undermining any other authority. It was a major issue, that was eventually ironed out.

We were not competitive. We were playing a 2-3, which we played solidly but our transition defense was atrocious. Despite drilling them to at least get one back, only one kid bought into it. Our perimeter defense was stout. Inside our girls didnt jump for rebounds or shift quick enough. At least 70% of the points we gave up were in transitions. The head coach switched us to a 1-3-1 and that got tore up, but she refused to switch out of it.

Offensively we are a complete mess. I wanted install an offense, coach was against it. I wanted to have plays, coach thought they would take up to much time. 6 games into the season she bought into the plays. We had 2 plays put in based around picks and motion. First game we ran it we had 27 shots, many of them wide open. The next day we played, the kids couldnt run the plays. We are running a 1-3-1 against the zone. It works well when they play it. It has been frustrating up to now. I give them simple assignments and then refused to do them.

I have begun installing a 3-2 motion offense. High and low post, overloading the ball side, with weak side backdoor cutting. The motion is there, they are setting picks and are now being more unselfish. The motion alone is an improvement, they do not move or come to the ball. We are not a good shooting team. I have done alot of work with their shots, they are not pushing off their chest anymore. We are hitting the rim more, not as many airbags. They know how to do a layup now.

We have seen incremental progress. I have kids crossing over, driving the lane when its there, taking smarter shots and there is more teamwork. The head coach and I are working way better together now and it shows. I am not a good coach, I am an improving coach, as is our head coach. Repetition is the key here. More practice time is also key. All I can hooe for is that they continue to improve. Hopefully we get more time next year.

Our first basketball game.

        I am not going to lie and say that I was oozing confidence. We had 7 1 and half hour practices, it was our first year in the league and the players knowledge was pretty weak. The Head Coach didn’t want to put in an offensive system because it would eat up the clock. I asked to go over the defenses, have a dry run and was told they were aggressive enough. I taught the kids a way to break the press by using picks or screens and movement. As you can see the kids werent working with much.

They won the tip off, kids didn’t play defense and they scored. Our girls forgot the press break and stood there waiting. Before you knew it we were down 8-0. I told the Head Coach to call a timeout and went over the break with them. We were able to inbound it but not move it up the court. The 2-3 defense turned into part man, part zone. One girl literally chased the ball all around the court. The spot she vacated in the zone was where they scored from. We were down 20-0 after one.

We came out in the second and were able to inbound and push it up the court. Very early in the quarter they stopped pressing. Our defense started to stay in position, except for our one outside on the back 3. Instead of covering the three point line on the back half, she would worry about the girl by the basket. She should have passed that on to the center. We stopped their fast break and it became more of a half court game. It was 26-2 at the half.

In the third and fourth quarter our lack of a half court offense was evident. We missed 4 free throws because the girls stepped over the line. Our center would not play her zone on defense and there was absolutely no court awareness whatsoever. At least 5 times we were caught from behind and had the ball stolen. I was calling for picks to no avail. Asking out bigs to establish position on the ball side to no avail. Asking for penetration again to no avail. We could not call a play because the girls wouldn’t listen. All this being said they never quit. We lost 36-6.

It was very frustrating, mostly because I wanted to approach these subjects, but was instructed not to. We play again tomorrow, I hope we learned from this. They need to play with a sense of urgency. I am sure we will see some improvement, but will it be enough.