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Winning is healthy, too

Published 9:18pm Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winning isn’t the main reason basketball squads are playing in the Optima Fall Girls Basketball League throughout Hampton Roads this fall. At the same time, getting a victory is always something positive to build on.

The Suffolk Lady Storm pulled out a close 28-22 win over Newport News on Saturday after four close — usually closer than six points — defeats through the first part of the league season.

The league, for girls ages 11-14, is unique for a couple of reasons.

It’s different from a usual recreational league, in which each of the area’s seven cities has a team, determined by tryouts back during the summer.

But the Optima Fall Girls Basketball League has another, important aspect that other youth sports leagues don’t offer.

Part of each Saturday, along with the basketball games played by the six teams that are involved, is devoted to health and safety classes taught by Optima Health professionals. The kids must pass the courses in order to remain eligible for their teams.

So after teaching and tests, then comes the fun and competition. As valuable as the lessons the girls are learning off the court, a win on the court is likely more immediate encouragement and motivation to keep working hard in both parts of the league than good grades on tests.

Tom Lewis is head coach of the Lady Storm and has been involved with Suffolk’s Optima girls’ basketball team for four years.

“The parents, especially — and then the kids as the program goes along — appreciate the lessons, and at the end of the program, the kids feel good about themselves,” Lewis said before the season started in September.

“Basketball’s a big part of it, and I’m fortunate to have a group that loves to play basketball, so it makes the other part easy as far as the kids wanting to go to class before we play,” Lewis said.

Love for the game leads to more willingness to do the academic work, work that’s voluntary and outside of the five-days-a-week most kids barely want to stomach, and that makes victories better to hear about.

The Suffolk Lady Storm still has time to make the season a winning one all the way around. Win or lose, playing in the local tournament in Churchland at the end of this month and the regional tournament in Petersburg from Nov. 4-6 will be good rewards.

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