As the NBA season rolls on and the NCAA looks forward to March Madness, the Optimist Club of Marco Island (OCMI) will be tipping off its 2015 Winter Basketball season under new leadership with a re-invigorated direction.
“Basketball has become one of the leading global sports around the world. We’d like to get our program back on track and get everyone on the Island excited about the sport again,” commented Bob Bruni, one of the program’s directors.
The season will begin practices in late February and games are slated for early March. New for basketball, OCMI plans to hold skills development clinics for the players as well as a Coaches Clinic for those volunteers who want extra basketball education.
“We found that many parents were hesitant to volunteer to coach even though they wanted to get involved. Rather than expect people to learn the game of basketball on their own, we felt we could give them some of the tools they need to develop the kids,” added Bruni.
Youth basketball is a great team sport that offers benefits to the true basketball enthusiast and the multi-sport athlete. More research is emerging about the advantages of children playing more than one sport to prevent burn-out, improve cross-training and broaden their athletic abilities. OCMI advocates that children play more than one sport or activity.
Lyndsi Koszo explained, “It’s important to encourage kids to play many different sports. We’ve all read the research that some of the better athletes are those who played two even three sports in high school. Ideally, we’d like our flag football players to play soccer and our soccer athletes to have fun with basketball and so on. There is a certain core set of skills that carry through in many sports. The more we can keep the kids playing together, the more they’ll learn and grow together on and off the field while having fun.”
Games and practices are held most weekdays at Mackle Park on the open-air courts. Meghan Bonos commented, “We are trying very hard this year to offer a schedule that presents as little conflict with other sports and activities such as baseball and spring soccer. We lost kids in prior years running our games on Friday nights for younger kids and Saturday mornings for the older ages. We will be very proactive with the coaches this year and try to establish our game schedule to ensure we can accommodate the many other activities that kids are also involved in.”
Another area that will be new this year is that OCMI hopes to offer separate male and female divisions in the older age groups. Bonos elaborated, “We are challenged by low numbers in certain ages and grades. It makes a ton of sense to have female divisions and male divisions, but we need kids to come out and play. If we have enough kids and coaches within each age group to separate the groups, we will. I think it will help us develop those kids who are really interested in learning how to play. “
Rod Tobiason, an active OCMI volunteer and basketball coach summed it up: “This is the community’s only basketball program, and we will work with all of the parents to the extent we can to deliver something we are all proud of and something that works for families as well. We are all very excited for this upcoming season. Another great opportunity for our kids to do something special.”
Registration for the OCMI Basketball program is currently open at www.marcooptimistclub.org. All children from Kindergarten through eighth grade are encouraged to sign-up. Registration will remain open through Feb. 7. If you are interested in volunteering to coach, referee or assist with games, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.