March Madness at the YMCA

127 Youth Basketball Players in the 127th Year of the Game


Saturday, March 24, 2018, at 9 a.m., the West Family YMCA’s gym filled with preschoolers and bouncing basketballs. The coaches introduced the 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds to the game James Naismith, a physical education director at the YMCA Training Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, invented in December of 1891. 127 years later, the lively youngsters practiced their basketball skills as 4 teams traveling to 4 stations: dribbling, passing, defense and shooting. The coaches and adult assistants engaged the children by name and got down at kid-level to demonstrate each drill. Even with the short attention spans of this age group, most players followed directions well and waited their turns. Their thrill for the game showed as they dribbled and bounce-passed the ball. They beamed as they sprung off the hardwood and raised their arms to block shots.


A double row of chairs divided the gym into two courts. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends sat in those seats to cheer the young athletes. One spectator, a grandmother, expressed deep gratitude for the YMCA Youth Basketball, as well as for the Early Child Care Center and After School Child Care Programs. She brought her youngest grandchild, age 3, that Saturday to play. She said for the past 6 years she took each of her 4 older grandchildren to YMCA Youth Basketball, too.

She commented, “It is a wonderful program.” And added she appreciates the positive influences and values modeled during the drills, games and other YMCA youth programs.


A mom seated a few chairs down applauded the coaches. She says, “They don’t throw them all in together. They get down on their level and there are no cuts.”


A mom at the end of the row, valued the life skills acquired through the program. She liked the idea of her child “getting directions from more than one coach” and experiencing “more than one learning style.”


Parents seated facing the other direction, said their 3-year-old tried the program for the first time. They felt their little guy needed a little more time to increase his attention span, but still felt he benefitted from the experience. They said they will sign him up again. Another parent of a 3-year-old sitting near a kiddie-high basketball goal, said her son couldn’t wait to play. His older cousin, a passionate player, took time to teach the preschooler some ball-handling skills. That cousin inspired the child’s absolute love of the game. The youngster aimed and sunk the ball right through the hoop.


Each hour until 1 p.m., another group of young athletes through age 14 met at the West Family gym for the YMCA of Broome County Spring Youth Basketball. Youth also competed on the courts at the Binghamton facility. In all, 127 players participated, exactly the number of years since a janitor nailed up two peach baskets to serve as the first basketball goals at the YMCA Training Center. That first game immediately succeeded in engaging a spirited class of trainees that December midday and quickly spread round the world. It continues to challenge athletes of all ages and levels to conquer the court and their limitations through drills, training, teamwork…and fun!


The thrill of learning the skill! March Madness at its best!