PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. - Two hundred local kids in the Plattsburgh community have better basketball skills and some new role models to look up to thanks to the Plattsburgh women's basketball team.
Monday, the team hosted a free basketball skills clinic at Memorial Hall on the Plattsburgh campus to local youth, teaching them skills including ball handling, defense, shooting, and rebounding. Head coach Cheryl Cole said the clinic, hosted by the team for the past handful of years, continues to grow in popularity. Some of those little ones have parents who are alumni of Plattsburgh, who remain in the community; some parents even used to play on the court for the Plattsburgh women's basketball team themselves. "There's kids as young as three years old, and probably up to 13," Cole shared. "These kids love it."
The effort is a collaboration with the Clinton County Youth Bureau. Located in Plattsburgh, the Youth Bureau's aim is to establish, coordinate and maintain youth development, recreation and delinquency prevention programs throughout Clinton County for youth from birth to 21 years. This is accomplished by networking with others who serve youth, assessing the needs of youth through comprehensive planning, coordinating and planning youth services, allocating Office of Children and Family Services Youth Development Program (YDP) funds for youth programs and evaluating the effectiveness of those programs.
The youth were split up into six groups by age, rotating in the different stations to work on their game alongside the players on the women's basketball team. "These kids are here because they love this sport. If they pick up one or two little things, that's awesome," Cole said.
The head coach explained that her players learn that the kids put them on a pedestal as individuals to look up to. "I don't think they know initially, but they get a part of it really quick. They embrace it and learn to interact with youth, and learn skills to help them out in life," Cole shared. She said the players know how to step up to the plate to make a difference for those kids. "I think as coaches, sometimes we underestimate what our players can do. We don't realize that they can do a lot for themselves if you push them our of their comfort zone," Cole explained. "They learn to be involved with youth and community at a very high rate. It makes me proud to see my players really step up."
Additionally, it brings awareness to the women's basketball program itself - something Cole said is usually lacking compared to the men's basketball program at Plattsburgh. "It's always a battle to get recognition for women's sports," she explained. "It's changing, but it's slow. Anything we can do to push that."
The fun doesn't stop there, though. On Jan. 26, the women's team will host Geneseo, where those same kids are invited to cheer the Cardinals on - giving back to them through helping develop their basketball skills, and giving them a chance to watch their role models on the court. "It's a win-win for us, because they're screaming, it makes a great game environment for our players," Cole said. "It's tremendously nice to give back to the community."