Hope’s first-ever edition of Steve Nash Youth Basketball is off to an encouraging start, with 30 boys and girls registered and attending regularly.
Grace Baptist’s senior pastor Jeff Kuhn heads up the group, acting as the girls’ manager, while youth pastor Jake Giles is the boys’ manager.
“We’ve got 17 girls and 13 boys,” said Kuhn on Monday. “I’m pretty happy with that, as it’s enough to get a couple of teams each.
“Everybody gets equal playing time, too,” he added. “At this age, that’s very important, as you never know who is going to develop the most.
“Forty players would have been ideal for me,” he figured, “but we’re just starting out — so if we’re going to make mistakes, it’s better to be making them now, than if we had 100 players.”
Kuhn is already looking ahead to next year, even though this season is only half-done, ending on June 13.
“We’d like to have a Grade 4-5 and 6-7 league next year, if we can get at least 20 in each,” he said. “Even now, it’s a big stretch for the Grade 5s to play against the Grade 7s — especially with some of the Grade 7 girls being so tall.”
Kuhn and Giles support the teams at arm’s length, leaving the coaching to other community members. “If a ball goes flat, we’ll be the ones to pump it up,” he said.
For coaches, Kuhn has gone back to the Mustang corral for five of the nine volunteers.
Linden Willock is the most recent Mustang alumnus to help out. There’s also Ben Brouwer, Thomas Walter, Heather Peters and Cindy Talarico.
“We’ll be developing good coaching, through this program,” said Kuhn. “The high school relies on community members to help coach their teams — so we’ll be helping support their program.
Six to eight high school students come out and help with the practice sessions, then run the score clock on game nights.
“It’s a great group of volunteers,” added Kuhn. “They are sometimes more excited than the players.
“At our last games, the parents were in the stands, teasing the refs about the calls and cheering on the players,” said Kuhn. “It felt like home, to me. It was good to see.”
Games are played with 20-minute halves — and the clock keeps running, though each team can have up to three stop-time time-outs in a game.
It’s developmental learning, said Kuhn, so they don’t come down too heavy on the rules at this point.
“If a player does a double-dribble, we’ll stop the game and teach the rule — then give the ball back to the player and play on,” he said.
Hope Secondary School makes the gym available for the group’s Monday and Thursday sessions, for which Kuhn is grateful. Since the school’s indoor sports end around spring break, there’s more floor time available now.
“There’s lots of other school and community use for the gym — but I’d like to expand from our 13 to 16 or 18 sessions,” said Kuhn. “We’ll do an evaluation at the end of the season and plan for next year.”
Kuhn said he thought Blue Moose Coffee House would be a good, central place to run their registration nights from, so he got permission from owner, Wes Bergmann. The arrangement turned out to have a fringe benefit.
“The Blue Moose donated a ball for every kid,” said Kuhn. “It’s kind of fun to see kids out in the community, practicing because they have their own ball. They’re red and white, so we know where they came from.”