A basketball player runs down the court, occasionally dribbling. Players behind him run as fast as they can, some tripping over untied shoelaces — but none are fast enough to catch him. The 4-year-old player makes the layup.
Teaching the younger generation how to play basketball has been a focus for South Suburban Parks and Recreation this season with the introduction of two new leagues, said Keeley Sorensen, South Suburban’s program coordinator.
The High Line Competitive League is for second-, third- and fourth-graders and the Little Hoopers League for kids ages 3 to 5.
The program’s expansion now allows for kids aged three to 14 to play.
The Little Hoopers play on a modified court with 6-foot hoops and a 22-inch basketball. The scrimmages are separated into four-minute quarters. Their season is four weeks long.
The High Line League plays for eight weeks.
The teams chose names such as the Ultra Werewolves, The Rocket Turtles, The Sparkle Cheetahs and The Emojis.
With the exception of Little Hoopers, the leagues are separated by age and gender. There were eight Little Hoopers’ teams, 72 boys’ teams and 45 girls’ teams.
Of the 1,209 kids in the basketball program, 70 percent lived in the district’s cities of Lone Tree, Centennial and Littleton. The other 30 percent were primarily from nearby areas, such as Highlands Ranch and southern Denver.
The leagues had a force of 250 volunteer coaches.
Keith Love said he could not have coached his son’s team except for the Thursday-night play time. His son on the team, Clyde, is a multi-sport athlete. Weekend practices and games would have been impossible with Clyde’s other sports.
“I have 8- and 10-year-old boys and they play all the sports,” Love said. “The clubs say they like multi-sport athletes, but that is impossible when everything seems to happen on Saturday.”
Love coached Team Denver, a group of seven fourth-grade boys that won the championship this season.
“We want to do it again next year,” Love said. “It all went really well. It was organized in a nice gym and with good referees.”