SUNDRE – A new program intended as an opportunity to introduce young students to the basics of basketball before they reach junior or high school recently wrapped up a successful inaugural season.
Coach and organizer Anna Rozenhart said she and husband Josh originally started to consider this past year the possibility of developing the Small Hoops in Sundre program inspired largely by the experience one of their boys had at a similar program for kids in grades 3 to 5 that involved a much longer drive.
“My son Samuel was in the Airdrie basketball program last year and he loved it,” said Anna. “We thought we could totally run this in Sundre if there was enough interest.”
So, the couple decided to start looking into whether there might be enough local demand for such a program before taking the next step to develop the initiative.
“A lot of the kids that Samuel played with at school, they were interested in it,” she said. “We just asked them and their parents if it was something they’d like to do, and then save us a drive going back to Airdrie for both my kids this year.”
As it turned out, the Rozenharts were encouraged to discover there was no shortage of interest.
“It kind of snowballed because we originally started with 12, and then ended up with 17,” she said. “And we had more, but I had to basically say I can’t take more kids just because it was just me most practices.”
Once in a while, Josh lends a hand after work, but there otherwise weren’t enough hands on deck to accommodate more players, she said.
“Now, we kind of know for next year that there’s the interest,” she said. “So, if I can have more parents coaching, then we’ll make little teams hopefully next year.”
Herself a former college basketball player who at a young age was introduced to the sport, Anna said kids in Sundre have the opportunity to pick up hockey early on.
“And they take to hockey so quickly,” said Anna, adding she and Josh wanted to start something similar to introduce children to basketball “so that by the time they get to Grade 6, they actually know the rules and the basics.”
On Thursday, March 23, the program’s inaugural run ended with a friendly windup game against the Grade 6 girls from River Valley School, coached by Grade 5 teacher Cassandra Quick, who was “absolutely” onboard with the idea, Anna said, adding parents were also fully supportive.
Throughout the season, the Small Hoops in Sundre squad played against the Grade 6 team three times, she said.
“We won one and then tied one and they won one,” she said. “So, it all worked out pretty perfect.”
While all of the games were well attended by parents, the windup match drew out the best crowd Anna said she had seen so far.
“We put it out there that this would be our last game of the season,” she said, adding that ended up enticing a number of grandparents, aunts and uncles to join the regularly attending parents in the stands.
“It was a little bit of a shock because I didn’t put out enough chairs. I was actually really impressed with how many people showed up to cheer these little guys on.”
The final game went really well and essentially came down to the wire, with the Grade 6 girls emerging victorious by a narrow two-point margin with a final score of 26-24, she said.
With 16 players able to attend, the coach said they were able to switch the lines out.
“We just kind of did even play time for everybody so everybody got their court time evenly,” she said. “That was kind of our goal all year.”
Offering parting thoughts, she said registration fees were based on a cost-recovery model and went on to express gratitude to the Moose & Squirrel Medical Clinic for donating jerseys.
Already looking to next year, Anna is optimistic about the program’s potential to grow.
“If we had 20 kids, you could really do a good four-on-four basketball and still teach them,” she said, adding it all hinges on having enough coaches volunteer to step up.
“We’re hoping that we can run this program for a few more years and just kind of bring basketball to Sundre and get these kids a head start going into junior and senior high.
"Maybe put Sundre on the map for basketball too as well as hockey.”