By ADAM LAPIERRE
News staff writer
February 15, 2006
Hood River’s Community Education youth basketball program was started in 1981 by Mike Schend. With about a dozen teams the first season, Schend designed the program based on his experience as a YMCA director. YMCA concepts promote youth sports for the sake of encouraging and developing basic skills, sportsmanship and team attitudes. With no winners or losers, no league records and no pressure, Community Education basketball was to embody the core principal of sports just for fun.
And 25 years later, the program, which is currently in progress, consists of 38 teams of third through sixth grade boys and girls.
“It’s interesting,” Schend said. “We’ve been doing this long enough to see the generation change. The kids who are playing now have parents who played when they were kids. Whenever you have a program that continues and grows like this, it’s a good thing.”
The program is divided into four leagues this season, third and fourth grade boys and girls and fifth and sixth grade boys and girls. Each team practices once a week and plays one game every Saturday from Jan. 14 to Feb. 25, with teams from Parkdale, Odell, Pine Grove, Westside, Mid Valley, Cascade Locks and White Salmon.
Several rules are changed in order to promote fun and enjoyment of the game. For example, at the beginning of every game, each player gets to shoot a free-throw that counts toward the overall score. Other modified rules include every foul going to the free-throw line, no back-court defense, no double-teaming, and lower baskets.
“The idea is to make it easier for the kids to play and enjoy the sport. The philosophy is to encourage participation and the love of the game so the kids will enjoy it and come back and play again … For some, it’s their first time with team sports. We want to make it a good experience for them so they continue as they get older.”
An exciting element to the season is that a handful of teams — chosen by random — get to play each other at halftime of Hood River Valley High School and Horizon Christian School basketball games. For most of the kids, they play in front of the biggest audience of their lives.
“The grins on their faces tell the story,” Schend said about the halftime players. “You can tell it’s a neat experience for them.”
A league of 38 teams would not be possible without the help of the local volunteers. With two or more coaches per team, about 100 coaches are helping this season.
“There are a lot of caring parents and coaches out there,” Schend said. “The league doesn’t happen without their participation.”
After basketball, Community Education youth sports moves to the summer soccer season.
The K-2nd graders will start in June and the 2nd-8th graders will start in August.