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Introduction To Basketball For Dozens Of Local Youths
A player puts up the shot from the corner as his opponents move in to guard and others get ready for a rebound in Saturday morning action. Marg Jackson/The Times

Dozens of teams and dozens of kids, all working toward a common goal, learning the game of basketball.

It was ‘opening day’ for Escalon’s recreational youth basketball program on Saturday, Jan. 11 with kids from kindergarten through sixth grade suiting up for practices and games.

The old gym at Escalon High School is the setting for the kindergarten through third grade participants with the older players – those in fourth through sixth grades – meeting in the gym at El Portal Middle School.

The youth basketball program runs for six weeks, with the players getting time each week for practice to work on skills such as dribbling and passing, then they face off with other teams in their age bracket for games.

No scores are kept; fans on both sides typically cheer whenever any of the young players send the ball through the hoop. For the younger ages, smaller, lower hoops are set up in the old gym to make it easier to shoot.

Several Escalon High School basketball players help out by coaching and refereeing and the majority of head coaches are parent volunteers.

The first action of the day starts at 8:15 a.m. and games typically run until mid-afternoon.

Each team starts their day with a 20-minute practice, followed by the game.

The program runs through Saturday, Feb. 15.

“I just think it’s so fun, teaching them and running down the court with them,” said Brooke Campbell, a varsity basketball player for Escalon’s Lady Cougars.

Several of the players are working on mastering the skill of dribbling, with many still just hanging on to the ball and running around the court holding on to it before passing or shooting. Some, however, have gotten the hang of it early and dribble in and around the competition.

But the main goal is on learning about the game, developing friendships and focusing on teamwork, getting everyone in the team involved.

Campbell is also doing some refereeing for the program.

“Every whistle you blow is a teaching moment,” she said. “I love basketball and I like sharing my knowledge with them, passing it on.”

As much fun for the fans as for the players, the crowd cheers when a young game participant sends the ball through the hoop to score in Saturday morning youth basketball action. Marg Jackson/The Times