By Carol McCracken
Dribbling, blocking, running, and teamwork were a few of the fundamentals seen at the kickoff game for young players yesterday afternoon at the East End Community School. With only one practice under their small belts, these youngsters darted around the court shooting baskets and guarding each other as though they were experienced players. Nick Cliché, Portland’s recreation leader at the EECS as well as Reiche School, said: “We want to teach kids the fundamentals of organized basketball as well as let them have fun.”
There are 120 youngsters enrolled in this age group from all over Portland. Each game lasts 30 minutes with all children receiving equal playing time. It’s an eight season game that lasts until April 4th. There is no scoring during the game so they are all winners. There are no playoff tournaments for the twenty-eight teams involved either. It’s called the Gallagher League – named for a city recreation department employee.
Jim Dooley is one of the many parents gathered to watch his child play this Valentine’s Day. Corbett who is 6 years old plays in the 1:15 game between the Celtics and the Grizzlies. Before the game begins, Jim says he and his family don’t live on the Hill but they decided to send Corbett to EECS rather than a school closer to their home. He’s glad he did. “Corbett’s teacher is just what you’d want for a dream teacher for your child’s first teacher. Her name is Mrs. Hewey,” he said. “Riding the bus to school is a challenge for him, but it’s worth it overall.” Jim says he’s very pleased with Corbett’s education so far at EECS. But once the game begins, eyes are glued on the basketball court.
The head coach of the Celtics is Melissa DeMerchant. She intends to emphasize the fundamentals of the game as well as good sportsmanship she says just before the game begins. Her assistant coach is Brittany O’Brien. On the court both coaches run down the court alongside their pint-sized players – instructing sometimes and encouraging at other times. One young lady limps off the court and the coaches were there for her with an ice pack to put on her left knee. “My players are all stars,” says Melissa beaming at the entire bench under her charge.