For more than 100 years, the Rockford Park District has been providing youth sports programs for the community of Rockford, IL. They have recently grown their basketball programming since joining the Jr. NBA in 2016, and this past year reached more than 300 participants. By working closely with several local community centers, club teams, and the Rockford Public School district, they offer a variety of programs that range in skill level, from introducing kids ages 5-10 to the sport, to a more elite experience for middle and high school players. However, each of their programs focus on teaching skills, values, and wellness in a fun and positive environment.
The Rockford Park District tips off their youth basketball season with a Draft Night and parent meeting. During this meeting, parents will learn about core values and expectations for both parents and players, review the code of conduct, and be able to meet their child’s coaches. Players not only get to meet their future teammates and receive their jerseys, but they also take part in a skills and conditioning camp. The season also includes a Tip-Off Jamboree and a Thanksgiving tournament at no additional cost.
In order to assist families that are not able to pay, the Rockford Park District offers the “Help Me Play” fee assistance program, that over 50% of participants qualify for. The District also offers completely free programming including a local Jr. NBA Skills Challenge competition, Senator Steve Stadelman’s 3-on-3 basketball tournament, and a Back to School basketball camp in which all participants receive backpacks filled with school supplies.
Rockford Park District’s program also heavily focuses on the importance of well-trained coaches. All coaches are required to participate in mandatory training clinics as well as attend events led by guest speakers and local professional coaches. Additionally, all coaches receive a handbook outlining fundamental skills, parent involvement, team rules, and more. Rockford Park District even requests that all coaches download the Jr. NBA Coach App, and encourages them to spend 10 minutes at the end of each practice and prior to games to discuss core values such as team work, respect, sportsmanship, and healthy living. To further emphasize healthy eating, the coaches receive information on healthy snack options to provide the players.
Moving forward, the Rockford Park District plans to integrate the Jr. NBA instructional curriculum to their outreach sport fit program that works with over 2,000 youth per summer. As part of this, they plan to use the Under Armour gift card to purchase outdoor basketball equipment, cones, and water bottles.