By Rob Potter
LIBERTY February 16, 2007 For the past several weeks, scores of boys and girls have learned more about the game of basketball thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers, the Town of Liberty Parks and Recreation Department and Liberty Athletics.
A total of 120 kids in the second through sixth grades in the Liberty Central School District have spent three hours each Saturday morning since mid-December participating in the first year program that is co-sponsored by the Town of Liberty Parks and Recreation Dept. and Liberty Athletics.
The final session of the 2006-2007 program was held last Saturday in the Liberty High School gymnasium.
A group of volunteer coaches led by Liberty Central School Athletic Director Jason Semo and Town of Liberty Parks and Rec. Dept. Assistant Director Chris Sinceno, who is also the Liberty junior varsity boys’ basketball coach, have taught the boys and girls the fundamentals of basketball during the past several weeks.
The youngsters learned how to quickly get into the “triple threat” position while maintaining possession of the basketball. By crouching down, keeping their feet apart, clutching the basketball with both hands and holding it near their hip, the youngsters can quickly dribble past a defender, pass the ball to a teammate or shoot the ball.
The coaches also instructed the boys and girls in the art of dribbling, including the crossover dribble from one hand to the other and a between the legs dribble.
After completing the drills, the players were divided into teams in two age categories. The younger boys and girls played on “Division III” teams, which were named after well-known National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III teams such as SUNY Cortland and Mount St. Mary’s. The older boys and girls played on “Division I” teams, which were named after popular NCAA Division I teams like Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and UCLA.
The coaches then officiated the games, making sure that the fundamental rules were followed and that every team member got a chance to play.
“This is the first year and it has been a big success,” Semo said. “We hope to continue this program in the future.
“Seeing these kids learn about basketball and having fun is great,” he added.
Semo noted that the reason the program was such a hit is the efforts of everyone involved. From Director Brian Scarderfield and everyone at the Liberty Parks and Rec. Dept. to school staff members to the volunteer coaches to the parents and kids themselves, everyone has worked hard to make the program succeed.
“We’ve had many of the boys’ JV players volunteer to be coaches, as well as members of the boys’ varsity team and members of the girls’ varsity team,” Semo said.
Semo’s wife, Bryndis, has also helped out by signing in the kids each week at the registration table and coordinating a photo session last Saturday.
In addition to Jason Semo and Sinceno, coaches for the program included: Lakarri Byrd, Arthur Felder, Chris Hinton, Tom LaGattuta, Matt Stoddard, Chris Soto, Aryana Walizadeh and Ceara Williams.
“These kids come out on Friday nights and see the high school players like Lakarri Byrd, Connor Hinton and Ceara Williams,” Semo commented. “Those high school players are heroes to the younger kids. So for the young boys and girls to come out on a Saturday and be taught some basketball drills and rules by those players is just great.”
Because the Liberty Youth Basketball program was so successful, Semo said plans are already in the works to hold similar programs for other sports.
For example, registration for a youth football program is scheduled for this spring. The football program would then be held this autumn.