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?

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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.

May 24, May 31 and June 7 soccer games.

    It has been an odd few weeks. I have been lazy concerning my posts. I want to make it abundantly clear how proud I am of my girls. We are a U-13 team playing at the U-14 level. Not only are we playing but we are playing well. I am going to give brief synopsises of the last three games. Then a simple overview of what I liked and what has gone wrong. My last season as a volunteer has been incredible with the kids.

         The first game was a mess. We played U-14 soccer on a U-10 field, with U-10 nets. The one ref coached the team we were playing last year and the other played for the club 2 years ago. We knew we were up against it. We play 12 minute quarters and the quarter times went as follows, 1-12 minutes, 2-13 minutes, 3-14 minutes and 4-16 minutes. We went up early in the second on a nice breakaway by our forward. She hit a nice shot. We held them in check for the whole actual games. It was in the 15th minute of the 4th quarter that they scored. It was off a cheesy foul call and the kick was high. Our goalie got her hands on it but not enough. They got away with blatant pushing as well as tripping and dragging our kids to the ground. It was a struggle to keep our kids from retaliating. There was an altercation after the game where one of their players went after a parent. It was a mess. I reported the refs to the league office. This game was ridiculous. Score was a 1-1 tie.

The second game was an outstanding game. We had the chance to play 11 v. 11 and ran with the oppurtunity. We did not have any subs, but our kids played fantastic. I could not have been prouder. They dominated the first quarter, the ball was in our end for the majority of the quarter. Our defense bailed us out continuously. The second quarter was more in our favor. We kept it on their side or midfield for the majority but neither team could score. The ref said the game would come down to a fluke shot and it did. The third quarter was more of the same. Very even and well played. Half way through the fourth quarter they pushed it down into our box. We kicked it to the side, where one of their girls got off a hard shot. It hit off one of our girls, then one of theirs , hit our goalie in the face and went in. Nothing could have been done about it. We pushed them hard but couldnt score. We lost 1-0. Their were a combined 9 shots on goal for the game, 6 for them and 3 for us. It was a fantastic game. Although we lost our kids played very well. I was incredibly proud.

Our last game showed how far we truly have come. We were playing what was considered the strongest team in the league. We had an early break away in the first for a quick goal. They came back with a nice shot early in the second. Halfway through the third we hit on a nice crossfield pass and put in the oppisite corner. She really made the goalie look bad. Then we got another break away and our Mid hit a dribbler past the goalie. Their girls were getting very frustrated. We lost one of better defenders to injury in the first and one of our mids in the third. We were out of subs. So I told them to push it if they had it and if not waste away the clock. We did give up a goal on a beautiful rainbow shot over the goalie. One of our other defenders got hurt, but stayed in the game. After our defender went out in the first our defense was very weak. Our goalie saved at least 25 shots if not 30. She seriously bailed our girls out. We wasted the time away for a 3-2 win. It really showed how these girls can play through adversity.

We still lack consistency. We have a quarter every game that is way below how we play. But somehow, someway these kids pull it off. Our 2 losses this season were both 1-0. Our goalie has been great all season. Our defense has had one terrible game. Our offense gets lost at times but usually finds a way. Playing up a year has opened their eyes. They have realized what it takes to compete going forward. I believe in the system we have taught them, it is evolving with the addition of the cross field pass and allowing them to chip. I honestly believe that I have been lucky to coach this group of girls. We have one game left together. I hope we go out with a bang.

May 18 soccer game.

         We knew it would be a tough game. We were playing a travel team. I do not have one girl on my team who plays travel soccer. In fact they only played the last 3 years of spring soccer. But I have a fundamentally sound team with a ton of heart. We are a physical, aggressive team that lacks overall team speed. They can compete with anyone.

First quarter started with us with the ball. The other team quickly established their speed superiority. They played a similar style to ours, short to intermediate passing, aggressive defense forcing the ball outside. They also packed the field making the short passing game very difficult. We quickly took advantage of their overagressive defense. We got a quick break away, our best scorer had the ball, made a move, their goalie fell, our girl took one extra dribble shot!!! Was stopped by their goalie. Great stop by their goalie. They followed up with a break shortly after. They drove it, beat one of our defenders, took the shot, it hit our goalies hand and dribbled in. GOAL!!!!! They went up 1-0. We had 4 shots to their 3.

Second quarter they started with the ball. It was a great back and forth quarter. They had breaks, we had breaks and both goalies were playing off the charts good. We started going for the chip to loosen up their defense. It gave us some great chances but we just couldnt finish. They also started chipping and had some incredible chances, but both goalies were ridiculous. It got a little extra physical but the calls werent falling our way. Our buildup attacks were working up field but our shots just werent hitting. After 2 it was still 1-0. We had 5 shots on goal to their 5.

We started off with the ball in the third quarter. It was the same as the second. A tough, grind it out type of game. It became a game of break aways. We were close and so were they but nothing was happening. It was just give and take. They were our team, just alot faster. Their players were getting frustrated that they couldn’t pull away and ours were frustrated that they couldnt get it in the goal. There were a lot of nice passes and buildups, but both defenses were playing great. The goalies were dominating this game. Still 1-0 after 3. They had 4 shots on goal to our 2.

Fourth quarter was the same as the previous 3. A hard fought give and take game. Very physical, a lot of buildups being negated. As the quarter went on our girls really put the pressure on. We began moving it easily through their defense but they either came up with a defensive stop or their goalie would make a great play. We were close time after time. We really dominated the last 6 minutes of the game only to fall short. We lost 1-0. We had 6 shots on goal to their 2.

I am very proud of the way our girls played. Travel teams have a hard time beating each other, they should have really taken it to us. That either means they were not very good or we have really improved. Either way I walked away truly impressed with my team. I let them know how proud I was and how impressed I am by their heart and dedication. I am a lucky coach.

Saturdays Soccer game

          We came into this weeks game with excellent momentum. This week we were playing a team a year older then us and it was our first time, practice and games included, that we had out full roster. We always have our girls show up 30 minutes early to warm up. When they showed up this day, there was no get and up and go, they were very flat. I talked to them about it, but it seemed to reach deaf ears.

The other team opened up the game with the ball. Our girls made me eat my words, they came out on fire. First 3 minutes were dominated the ball, working it up with excellent passing and some smart soccer. The unselfishness was really on display, but their goalie stop several shots and a few other went off to the side. They kicked the ball far up the field, our one defender who is very passive, did not play aggressive letting them get a very nice break. Our goalie made an excellent stop. Our mid recieved the kick, drew the defender in and made a quick move. She went around the defender, slowly working up the side drawing defenders to her. She made a beautiful cross to the forward who one touched passed to the other forward, who just got her foot on it to redirect it. GOAL!!!! 1-0 we were up. A little while later our defender had a nice tackle, pushed it up field and made a beautiful pass to the mid. The mid passed to the forward who quickly gave it back to the mid, very nice give and go. The mid deeked a defender, faked a shot and passed a dribbler to our forward, who quickly passed to our other mid. The mid hit a dribbler right past the goalie. GOAL!!!!! We went up 2-0. The quarter ended soon after. We had 7 shots on goal to their one. Nice quarter.

Second quarter started and we immediately saw a different team on the field. Our girls were not aggressive, our passes were ugly. We were walking up and down the field. They started bringing the ball up the field and everyone of our players were moving backward, which is contrary to what I teach them. They brought the ball down the field against our very passive defense, pushed it to the middle and shot. GOAL!!!!! 2-1. Our goalie didnt even move. Our girls were recieving passes very badly. Balls were bouncing 5 feet off their legs and it was very ugly. Off of one of our turnovers they chipped it up the field. Our defenders jogged to the ball, while their players ran to it. We of course got beat to the ball and they pushed hard, shot from the box. GOAL!!!!!! 2-2. The rest of the quarter was complete dominance by them. We couldn’t get our girls to play our game. If our goalie didnt make some nice saves we would be way down. They had 6 shots to our 2. It was tied 2-2.

The third quarter started and looked just like the second. We had the ball longer, they got breakaways. We were walking, they were running. Our passing was nice but our receiving the ball was horrible. Maybe it was the heat, but we could not get them to play the game we taught them. They went back to just kicking the ball, not even looking to kick it to someone. It was very frustrating, we kept instructing and offering encouragement. The ref said he appreciated the coaching method. They finally got a break, our defender hustled back and got her foot on the ball. Ball bounced up and hit our girl in the hand. Penalty shot for them. The girl kicked it and our goalie looked like her feet were in concrete. GOAL!!!! 3-2 they were up. They got 3 shots on goal to our 3. 3-2 after 3.

I told the girls there are 5 things that go into each game. 1 the refs, cant control that. 2 is the effort, which you can control. 3 is the game plan, which wins games. 4 is luck, which goes both ways. 5 is who wants it more. I told them to show me. The team from the first quarter showed back up. Out of 12 minutes, 9 of them were spent on their end. We had one excellent oppurtunity after another. Our girls just didnt pull the trigger. When they did, the defense and goalie where fantastic. They had 2 breaks the whole quarter. Everything looked great but the finish. With about a minute left our mid and forward hit on a give and go. Forward took the shot and the goalie got her hands on it. The goalie hit the ground and the ball bounced out, right to our forward. She followed up and tapped it on. GOAL!!!!! 3-3 we tied it up. We dominated the rest of the quarter but couldn’t finish. We had 6 shots on goal,4 more outside it to their 2. We ended it a 3-3 tie.

They exploited our kids lack of enthusiasm. The 2 quarters we played our game, we were dominant. They dominated the second and despite no score in the third, we controlled the ball. Our recieving skills were lacking, as was a consistency effort. Our goalie got lazy at times, refusing to use the footwork and positioning we teach her. Every coach will have these games. It is up to that coach to find their way through it without alienating their players. We go into practice and work on these issues and go out next week playing hard. The tie was a loss to me, but you cannot question their heart when it came down to it.