It’s often said that if you don’t have a grassroots program in your sport, you won’t have a future for your sport.
Basketball NWT has one such program and the latest edition of it wrapped up for 2021-22 last weekend.
Junior NBA in Yellowknife is all over for another season with the final sessions at St. Joe’s Gymnasium on April 10. It was a chance for the young players to show their parents what they’ve been learning over the course of the season and have some fun playing against their parents.
Damien Healy, who helped coach the youngest group — six to eight-year-olds — said programs resembling Junior NBA have been going on in Yellowknife for some time but just under different names.
“It started as B and B Youth Hoops, then it became Steve Nash Youth Hoops but Canada Basketball renamed it Junior NBA,” he said. “Junior NBA has been around in Yellowknife for a few years now.”
In addition to the youngest division, there’s the eight and nine-year-old group and the 10-12 age category, the oldest of the three. According to Basketball NWT, 65 players signed up to play across all three divisions this season and everyone who did sign up received their very own basketball and a jersey with a NBA team logo of some sort on the front.
Each category also has its own curriculum with age-appropriate skills and drills.
“The curriculum for it all comes from Canada Basketball,” said Healy. “There’s a lesson plan with themes and suggested cheers for each week for the kids to do and diagrams for the coaches so they can teach everything properly and make it easy for the kids to understand.”
The most important job for the coaches, Healy added, is to keep it fun.
“Fun and interaction is so important because it keeps the kids coming back every week,” he said. “You want to make sure the kids are having a good time and that they’re engaged.”
As part of the final sessions, parents were given the chance to be a part of the action and Healy said it was a chance for the players to teach the bigger kids.
“Watching some of the parents, you could tell some haven’t played in a long time and there were some who really got into it,” he said. “We played a bit of five-on-five and for the younger kids, that was the first chance for them to see what that was all about because we’re usually practising.”
Junior NBA typically starts in the fall and goes until early spring but things were pushed back a bit due to the Covid-19 outbreak experienced earlier this year.
Healy, who’s also president of Basketball NWT, said the interruption didn’t have an adverse effect on the proceedings.
“Everyone came back after the break and we made sure we did everything under the (Chief Public Health Officer’s) regulations,” he said. “We had to make sure everyone everyone’s vaccinations were up to date and the parents weren’t able to come and watch right away but having them there for the last day was good. You could tell the kids enjoyed having them there.”