Youth Basketball League Dribbles into the Winter Season

There’s plenty of round-ball to go `round in the Town this winter.

The growing Charlestown Youth Basketball League kicked off its season this week, and reported that the program is strong and growing – despite competing with other youth sports in the winter season.

Max Gomez took over the coordination of the league this year from Andy Groh, but has been involved for about four years. He said the league has more than 150 kids – boys and girls – in four divisions.

“I’d say we have about 160 kids participating this year,” he said. “This year, the biggest change is in our boys JV. We went from six teams to eight teams. That age group has been expanding a lot.”

The basketball league serves kids age 7-9 for the JV and ages 10-12 for the varsity – and they feature a separate boys and girls league. They practice once a week, and they have games once a week – with all of their activities held during the week so as not to disrupt family getaways. The league is about 10 years old now, and has started to become a staple for a group of kids and volunteer coaches as well.

Gomez said they began signing up youngsters in the fall, and had evaluations in December. Practices started last week, and on Tuesday the leagues kicked off the season with games at the Community Center and the Harvard-Kent gym.

The league is unique in that they use real referees to call the games, building up a true understanding of the rules for the kids in the league.

“That creates a really good dynamic for the kids having the referees call the game,” he said. “That teaches the players the rules and how to play by the rules. It’s not just a coach with a whistle out there.”

That’s another aspect of the league that Gomez said they stress, building up the skill levels from a young age based on the fundamentals. Since basketball is a game that is often played in the playgrounds and in pick-up style, many young athletes can develop bad habits playing street ball that transitions over to their game when they get older and enter formal leagues.

Gomez said from a young age, they try to instill the fundamentals and rules within the players.

“It’s very important to get to teach them at this age,” he said. “We stress the fundamentals of the game. Our coaches have attended the Positive Coaches Alliance and that helps coaches to improve how they teach the kids. We definitely push for sportsmanship, teamwork and the fundamentals.”

One change this year to help the JV leagues that has come about is the introduction of lower rims for the younger kids. Gomez said they found that the 5-and 6-year-olds weren’t often able to make baskets on the regulation rims, and so the older kids in the league did most of the scoring. With the lower rims, he said they believe it will allow everyone to participate in a greater way.

Looking to the future, Gomez said they have a lot of interest from families of children who are young than 6 to start a league. The chief challenge there, he said, is finding somewhere to play games.

“We’ve had interest from families who would like to see a league for kids ages 5 and 6,” he said. “We’d love to expand, but our biggest challenge there is space. We don’t have a truly dedicated space so we already compete for space with other sports looking for winter gym time. We’d like to expand, but we have space concerns and we want to keep it local to Charlestown.”

He said others that have been crucial to keeping the league growing are Groh; Matt Sauriol, general manager of the boys varsity; Karson Tager, general manager of the boys JV; and Erica Walsh, coordinator of the girls program.

He also said they owned a big debt of gratitude to the Community Center for their help in getting the space.

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