The Englewood Recreational Center gymnasium walls echoed with cheers of family and friends as games there and at the Malley Recreation Center kicked off this year’s recreational basketball season for third- through sixth-graders.
Dave Parks, youth sports program administrator, said there are 10 teams in the league for third- and fourth graders and seven teams in the league for fifth- and sixth-graders.
There are leagues for boys and for girls team. Parks said there are eight teams of third and fourth grade boys and two girls teams from Englewood. There are also some girls who elected to play with boys teams.
Englewood third- and fourth-graders practice at their home schools and play their league games at the Englewood Recreation Center on Saturdays.
A first this year is the league for fifth- and sixth-graders that was created because Englewood School District returned sixth-graders to the elementary schools. Last year, the sixth-graders were in the middle school and there was a basketball program for them there.
There are separate leagues for boys and girls. The players practice at their home schools and play their games on Saturdays at the Malley Senior Recreation Center.
A first this year is there are teams from Bear Valley in the both leagues.
“Our program is strong,” Parks said. “It is helped by the fact we have a league for first- and second-graders that starts in January. It is a coed league and quite a few of those kids join our league when they are old enough. We also have quite a few kids who return year after year.”
It is a recreational league emphasizing that all players get into every game.
So, since teams play eight minute quarters, play stops half way through the quarter and both teams make full substitutions to make sure every young athlete gets about equal playing time.
The opening game of the season for third- and fourth-graders matched the team from Clayton Elementary School against a team from Bear Valley.
Anita Sandoval was in the stands to cheer for her son.
“I am so impressed with this program. The coaches work with the kids and it’s amazing to see how much they have learned about the game,” Sandoval said. “My younger son is playing here and then we will go over to Malley to cheer on his older brother. Both boys say they love playing basketball and when there are no practices, the kids are out on the patio dribbling and shooting the basketball. The practices and the games keep me busy but it’s fun for the kids and now, it’s fun for me to watch them play.”
The Clayton team of third- and fourth-graders coached by Jesse Thomas played the first game at the Englewood Recreation Center on Dec. 1.
For Thomas, this is the first year the former Englewood High School athlete has coached young basketball players.
“I decided to coach because I wanted to make things happen for the kids and because I love the game,” Thomas said. “We have worked hard learnign about basketball fundamentals and I am trying to help them and give them guidance.”
He said the season is going well. He said the players are eager to learn and they work hard in practice.
“The players are getting better every time on the court,” he said. “I am very pleased and it is really amazing how much their basketball skills and their teamwork has improved in the month we have been practicing. Learning about basketball is important but the most important thing is for the kids to have fun and enjoy playing every game they play, no matter the outcome.”