This team is more than just hoops

Published 11:26 pm Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Suffolk Parks and Recreation Department will be holding the last two tryout dates for its Optima Fall Girls Basketball League team on Friday and Saturday at Mack Benn, Jr. Recreation Center.

The league, which has teams throughout the parks and recreation departments of Hampton Roads, is competitive, but more than that it’s an educational opportunity for girls ages 11-14.

Jason Jones, the athletic supervisor for Suffolk Parks and Recreation, said teaching the girls on the team about setting goals, self-esteem and important health lessons are the real measurements of a successful season.

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“This league is an opportunity for girls who may not play AAU, although we might have some girls who are at that level,” said Jones.

“But it’s more about the developmental stage, just getting more girls interested in playing and exposing them to the game. Maybe next year, they can play AAU, or on their high school team.

“At the same time, we’re teaching important educational programs, which are not just about sports,” said Jones.

Giving kids knowledge about health problems such as obesity, diabetes and drug or alcohol abuse is one major goal, and the girls do not play basketball unless they are going to and doing well in the lessons off the court.

“The league is designed to help at-risk kids,” said Jones.

“We cover a variety of topics—exercise, the need for cardiovascular exercise, having a good diet. It’s also important to show the girls the value of teamwork, camaraderie, hard work, dedication and setting goals.”

Jones has seen other, perhaps unintended, but no less important changes take place for players who’ve been on past Suffolk teams.

On road trips together during the season, the chance to be a true team becomes valuable.

“It’s an opportunity to bond with teammates, and even the girls from other cities.”

“We’ve had a lot of positive responses from parents at the end of seasons. They’ve mostly told us their kids learned a lot,” said Jones.

The competitive part of the league and the games isn’t lost either. The Hampton Roads teams go on to a regional tournament. Last year, the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton hosted the event. Regional winners go on to a statewide tournament in Richmond.

The tryout sessions are from 6-8 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Proof of age and a recreation ID is required for participation. The games will take place Sept. 7- Nov. 2, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.