Youth basketball program is back this spring

Kids from Grades 4 to 7 will have an opportunity to build their skills

Jeff Kuhn

Kids from Grades 4 to 7 will have a great opportunity to build their basketball skills this spring, with the coming of the Steve Nash Youth Basketball Program.

In its first year in 2013, the program attracted 30 boys and girls from Grades 5 to 7. This year, coordinator Jeff Kuhn hopes to double that, by building on last year’s experience — and by including Grade 4 students.

The senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church is also the head coach of the Hope Secondary girls’ senior team and he’s excited about helping young players develop good fundamentals.

“Our Grade 8 girls are a stronger team this year because they were in the Steve Nash program,” said Kuhn on Tuesday. “You can see the difference already.”

With the extra grade added, two divisions will be formed… depending on registration numbers. The Grade 4-5s would practice at Coquihalla Elementary on Mondays and Thursdays, while the Grade 6-7s would practice at HSS.

Registration permitting, both divisions would have girls’ and boys’ leagues, running from 6-7 and 7-8 p.m. respectively, said Kuhn.

Plans are set for a March 31 kick-off — but before that, there will be a coaching session on March 3, led by Mike and Allison McNeil.

“There are not a lot of communities that have the Canadian women’s Olympic basketball coaches come to do a workshop,” said Kuhn. Allison was head coach at the London Olympics and her husband Mike was an assistant.

“Kind of a funny story… they met for the first time, years ago, in the Hope gym when they were here for a big coaching conference,” added Kuhn.

Another local connection: Allison’s dad, Alvin Towriss, is a long-time resident of Hope.

In addition to the McNeill’s coaching tips, Kuhn is looking forward to the help of newcomers Dave and Christie Ann Isbister, who moved to Hope after last years program was over.

“Christie Ann was the head coach of the Canadian Mennonite University women’s team,” said Kuhn. “If I ever made a video on good basketball fundamentals, I would use her in it. She’s the best.

“Our senior teams still make mistakes on skills they should have learned at the Grade 5-6-7 age,” said Kuhn. “Footwork, shooting form, dribbling with your head up… so we’re spending a lot of time practicing fundamentals.”

To get the skills hammered home at an earlier age, Kuhn plans to get size five basketballs for the Grade 4-5 players. These would be about the size of a regulation soccer ball, making them easier for the smaller hands to work with. An added bonus: the smaller ball has more room to get through the regulation hoop.

“I’m applying for a grant to help buy the basketballs for that group,” explained Kuhn. “They’ll also have the hand shapes printed on them, for hand positions while shooting.

“We’re applying for that grant — but if local businesses or individuals want to sponsor or donate to the program, we would love to talk with them.”

Kuhn is also applying for a grant that would help defray half of the registration cost for up to 20 players.

The full $60 fee covers 16 sessions, including nine practices and seven games. Players also get a Steve Nash reversible jersey, a drawstring bag, a basketball, a Basketball BC membership card and liability insurance coverage.

Registration will open on Feb. 10. People can pick up and drop off registration forms/payment at Silver Creek Elementary, CE Barry Middle School, or Coquihalla Elementary.

They can also download registration forms from the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/HopeSNYB/

Kuhn can be reached at 604-869-1349, or by e-mail at jeff@gbchope.com