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Some of us have had an influential person or club foster the love of basketball in our lives. The Boulder Panthers Basketball Club is a new TeamSnap League customer with a story of doing just that for youth. The Panthers of Boulder, CO are growing the love of basketball by teaching key motor skills to its middle school star-hopefuls so they can become success as well as by integrating with the local high school team. Richard Leddon, a Panthers Club sixth grade boys’ coach and winner of the Sports Authority Hometown Hero Award, goes deeper into how he fosters the continued love of basketball at all levels of play.
1. Teach motor skill development.
“It all starts with developing middle school kids with the right skill sets,” said Leddon. When athletes have the core skill set they need, the game is more enjoyable because that it less of a pain point in their careers in the future. The Panthers teach basic coordination skills that the club’s kids will use forever.
They focus on ball handling, passing, and shooting as well as developing motor skills. They coach them through a sequence of movements by doing drills, proper footwork techniques, using momentum, and practicing hand-eye coordination.
The Boulder Panthers High School program that they partner with promotes the same skill sets so the players can transfer those skills into more competitive play.
“They tell us that if you want to play at the high school level, here are the things you should be good at and working on,” said Leddon.
The 5th through 8th grade age level is the time to learn these skills during such a malleable age. Later on, motor skill development only proves to be more difficult.
2. Get more kids involved in the sport.
“It’s all about growing the sport of basketball,” said Leddon. “It’s about getting as many kids involved in a positive activity.”
The Club has a no-cut policy in tryouts, so the kids will have a foundation in basketball and an appreciation for the sport no matter what level they are at. The Club then designs teams based on players’ abilities.. “A “At this level, you just want these kids to learn to enjoy basketball, and have a positive experience from that. It’s even a sport you can play pretty much your entire life.”
That mission in mind takes enough organizational skills to make it happen. To better foster this growth, Leddon and the Director of the Club Luis Gomez-Do’lbarra turned to TeamSnap as a management tool for organizing their Club.
“We use every functionality TeamSnap has to offer,” he said. “There’s a lot involved when you’re a volunteer coach with other things going on – TeamSnap is extremely helpful for that lifestyle.”
The Club’s volunteers are mostly college students, former players and parents who put in about eight to ten hours a week with the service of TeamSnap as a second helping hand.
“On the League Level, if you have one database with all of the information of the club, it’s much easier to manage. People typically use a hodgepodge of databases so if any thing changes, it’s added time. TeamSnap eliminates that work. Now if something changes, you only change one thing in one place and then notify the whole league.”
3. Partner with other programs and learn from them.
The Boulder Panthers Club has two boys’ teams and one girls’ team at each grade level between fifth and eighth grades. The Club works with the Boulder Panthers High School team in order to build continuity between their younger program and the local high school.
Eric Eisenhard, the head Varsity coach at Boulder High School, spends his weekends with these middle school aged players from the Boulder Panthers Club. He gets them excited about basketball through group clinics and having them watch the high school team practice. The Club also plays scrimmages during high school halftimes.
“The future looks bright for these kids as they move up, and that means it’s also bright for the program at Boulder High,” said Leddon.
Then there’s the heart and soul of Boulder Panthers basketball, which resides with Director Luis Gomez-Do’lbarra, a former Olympian and Professional basketball player. Gomez-Do’lbarra is doing what we can to bring support to the athletes through building a lasting program and partnering with similarly aligned teams and organizations. “He started the club 12 years ago and has touched a lot of kids’ lives in a very positive way.”
Another influence on the Boulder Panthers is VP of the Gold Crown Foundation and former NBA player Bill Hanzlik. Hanzlik developed the youth basketball program in 1986 that the Boulder Panthers is a part of and is devoted to aligning middle school athletes with the local high schools across the state.
Even more than the tournament trophies and winning records, the Panthers show it’s colors in the ways that it’s former athletes are coming back to volunteer to make a difference and in how the high school program is actively involved. The Boulder Panthers Club’s influence is keeping people close to the sport and fostering the love of the game.