By Joel Hall
Starting Aug. 15, young, female athletes from around the Southern Crescent will have the chance to sharpen their basketball skills. For 10 Saturdays, LADYS, Inc., (Leadership and Development of our Youth in Sports) will host its 8th annual Saturday Basketball School.
The sessions - targeting beginning basketball players, and the more seasoned high school players - will take place at Clayton State University, and recreation centers throughout Clayton County. The first three sessions (9-11 a.m., for third-to-fifth-graders; 11 a.m., to 1 p.m., for sixth-to-eight graders; and 1-3 p.m., for high school junior varsity and varsity players) will take place on Aug. 15 at the Jim Huie Recreation Center in Jonesboro.
Darlene Beale-Norris, founder and CEO of LADYS, Inc., was an All-American basketball player at Howard University in the late 1980s, and is a former general manager of the now-defunct Atlanta Justice women's basketball team. She said the purpose of the program is to help young girls interested in the sport to learn the skills necessary to compete for scholarships and college opportunities.
"There are many times girls are given the opportunity to learn sports, but they are never taught how to compete," Beale-Norris said. "Playing helps you, but you have to know what you are doing when you are playing, and we, as parents, often put our kids in a lot of situations where they don't know how to compete.
"This allows them to learn how to enhance their skill sets," she said, "so they can go on to a higher level."
Beale-Norris said students will work on the fundamentals of basketball, such as speed, agility, passing, dribbling, and ball-handling. Each session also includes course work from the Women's Sports Foundation's "GoGirlGo!" education program, which covers topics, such as nutrition, obesity, and smoking.
"Not only do we try to come at it from a scholastic level ... we try to face some of the issues kids are dealing with now," Beale-Norris said. "This uses [the personal accounts of] professional athletes to convey what challenges young girls go through from an athlete's perspective. When young girls hear this, they know they are not alone."
In addition, during the 10-week program, a guest coach from the Atlanta Dream WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) team will coach one of the sessions. Students will also attend an Aug. 23 game at Philips Arena between the Atlanta Dream and the Los Angeles Sparks, where they will be recognized, and have the chance to interact with WNBA players.
Calvin Goss, a Saturday Basketball School coach, said the program has helped his daughter, Morgan, who will be attending the University of South Carolina, Upstate in the fall on a basketball scholarship.
"You can equate it to building a house, or any good, solid structure," Goss said. "By developing her individual skills, she has been able to apply those skills to her high school team, her AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team, and hopefully her college team. This helps them [young girls] feel good about themselves and know that they can be successful and athletic, and still be a young lady."
The price of the 10-week Saturday Basketball School is $90 for new students, $80 for returning students, and $75 per person for groups of seven or more. A ticket to the Atlanta Dream/Los Angeles Sparks game, and a Saturday Basketball School T-shirt are included in the cost of registration.
For more information, call (770) 369-7779, or visit www.ladysinc.org.