YMCA of Okanagan Jr. NBA program

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Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, but most people don’t know that it was invented by a Canadian. In 1891, Dr. James Naismith created basketball after being tasked with creating a new indoor sports activity while teaching a physical education class at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts.   

Since its inception, basketball has grown in popularity, likely because it can be played as a competitive sport or a casual game on local courts, but also because of its considerable health benefits.

Jennifer Bridge registered her two children, Sam, 5, and Ellie, 7, for the Jr. NBA program offered by the YMCA of Okanagan, in partnership with NBA Canada, after seeing a poster at the H2O Adventure + Fitness Centre, a YMCA-operated facility.

“We are big supporters of the Y and felt like the program was a fit for our children because it was more about community building than competition,” Bridge explained. “The program does a great job at introducing the concepts of teamwork and cooperation at the beginning of each practice to show that these traits are important to sportsmanship.”

The YMCA of Okanagan began offering the Jr. NBA program in early 2017 to introduce children ages 5-7 to basketball in a fun, active and healthy learning environment. This entry-level program features weekly 45-minute practices where the equipment and activities are designed to be age-appropriate and fun. Participants also receive a size-appropriate Spalding® Rookie Gear Basketball and NBA team branded t-shirt and certificate of completion.

Marcus Schamling, a Y-member and volunteer coach for the Jr. NBA program for two sessions, excitedly signed his boys —Rafael, 5, and Elijah, 7—up as soon as they were old enough to participate. He credits basketball for making him the man he is today, and coaching was something he had done in the past.

“I asked if I could help, because I know what a profound, even life-changing, impact coaches and sport can have at a young age,” said Schmaling. “The program is put together by sport professionals and athletes, which makes it easy for any parent to step in and facilitate. Plus, the YMCA is such a great organization to volunteer for. “ 
As a local charity devoted to building a healthier community, it was crucial to make the Jr. NBA program accessible to anyone who wanted to participate, because it introduces opportunities for children to be involved in sport and to develop physical literacy at a young age.

Registration for this 12-week program is open until September 26. Typically, this program is offered at a cost of $150-$200, but thanks to generous donors, including Frank J. Flaman Foundation this year, and TD Canada Trust in 2017, the Y can offer the program at a significantly reduced cost of $40 per child, per session to a maximum of 20 participants. 

These donations help remove the financial barriers that prevent many children from being healthy, active and social. If financial circumstances are limiting your ability to participate, you may also qualify for the Y’s Financial Assistance program to access this program or other services at the Y. Learn more by visiting ymcaokangan.ca.

To register for this program or learn more about how you can get involved as a participant, volunteer or donor, please visit ymcaokanagan.ca/Jr-NBA or call Rhonda Zakala, Vice-President of Marketing and Fund Development, at 250-491-8672.