Parks and recreation seasons on tap

Published 9:00 pm Friday, January 4, 2013

Volunteer basketball coach Darrick Lemaster works with his team that will compete in the junior division (ages 13-15) of a youth basketball league put on by the Suffolk Parks and Recreation Department. The league’s season begins next Saturday at Creekside Recreation Center and King’s Fork Recreation Center.

The Suffolk Parks and Recreation Department will be kicking off separate seasons for youth basketball, indoor soccer and cheerleading next Saturday and Sunday at local recreation centers.

Parks and rec athletics supervisor Jason Jones explained that the activities are longstanding city programs with proven benefits.

Meant for children ages 5-15, each program is largely designed to appeal to beginners.

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“We look at our programs as more of a developmental recreation program, where it allows parents to expose their kids to a new sport,” Jones said.

Basketball is broken up into four different age groups: Novice (ages 5-7), Pee-Wee (ages 8-10), Midget (ages 11-12) and Junior (ages 13-15). Only the Novice division is co-ed.

The girls’ age divisions are slightly different: Pee-Wee (8-10) and Midget (11-14).

Indoor soccer is completely co-ed from Novice to Midget and mirrors the girls’ basketball age breakdowns.

Of course, even within an age bracket there can be broad range of talent levels.

“But that’s the great thing about the way the league is set up — that we try and spread the children across each team, as evenly as possible, so that way you have a fair mixture,” Jones said.

These leagues have served as a great foundation for Suffolk athletes.

“Pretty much after those age groups, now that Suffolk has middle school sports, a lot of those kids can get right into the middle school sports that we have here in Suffolk with Suffolk Public Schools, which is awesome,” Jones said.

“We love the fact that a lot of our children move right out of our programs and roll right into the middle school sports and then on up through the high schools.”

Jones cited Nansemond River basketball standout Devon Oakley and as an example of someone who had participated when he was younger.

“Everybody has an opportunity to learn together and build each other up as a team, working together with our volunteer coaches,” Jones said.

Darrick Lemaster is one of those volunteers, coaching both a boys’ junior and midget basketball team.

“I played basketball in high school,” he said. “I was second-team all-state, and I like coaching. This is like my fifth year coaching.”

Lemaster liked what he was seeing from his junior team during a December practice in preparation for next weekend.

Cheerleading follows a similar age breakdown as basketball, with participants cheering at basketball games of corresponding age group.

“They do cheers on the side and then during the halftimes, a lot of them have routines that they’ve worked out for a quick halftime little center basketball court show for the parents,” Jones said.

Jones summed up two important ways that these activities have a positive impact on the city of Suffolk.

“The first thing is it’s always helping to improve the health of our young people,” he said.

“This provides an opportunity for parents to get their kids moving, help them to get a little bit more fit and get active,” he said.

“The other thing is that it helps to bring the city together,” he said. “Suffolk is really big geographically, and you have a lot of kids who may not have run into each other from one side of the city or the other.”

Children are able to get to know one another early, providing opportunities for friendships to form long before they potentially cross paths in high school.

Basketball games will be played at Creekside Recreation center and King’s Fork Recreation Center, while indoor soccer games will take place at Oakland Recreation Center. Games will run each weekend through mid-March.