Boys are learning a lot on the court, even basketball

Boys are learning a lot on the court, even basketball


Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

The Holy Name players pose for a photo with their coaches on February 27, after their game against St. Rose of Lima, Haddon Heights




Confidence. Self-esteem. Character development.

Ask Camden resident India Jackson what her 14-year-old son, Jalin, has learned the most with the first season of the Holy Name boys’ traveling basketball team, and she’ll mention these three things.

Started last fall, the front of the traveling team’s jersey may say “Holy Name,” after the Camden elementary school, but besides Holy Name, its players also come from Camden’s St. Anthony of Padua School, St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral and the San Miguel School.

The team plays in the Camden County Independent Boys’ Basketball League. Starting late last year and extending until this past Sunday, the 12 boys on the team have traveled to their competition, which includes St. Peter School, Merchantville; St. Rose of Lima, Haddon Heights; St. Stephen, Pennsauken; Good Shepherd, Collingswood; St. Joan of Arc, Marlton; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Berlin; Assumption, Atco; John Paul II, Stratford; and Resurrection, Cherry Hill.

The new team is an offshoot of the Camden City intramural basketball league, started by JudyAnn Gillespie, which brings together boys and girls from Camden’s Catholic elementary schools every Sunday during the spring at Rutgers-Camden’s gym to learn basketball skills and play against each other.

With this traveling team, kids are “offered the opportunity to get into other environments” outside their Camden homes, said Dennis Crawford, an assistant coach for the team.

The seeds were planted last season when adult volunteers of the intramural program decided to further Gillespie’s vision and give boys in grades 6-8 a chance to play other teams from surrounding towns, all the while participating in basketball practices on essentials such as dribbling, passing, shooting and layups.

Two or three times a week there was practice at the St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral gym, and, on average, there were two games a week.

The team’s coaching staff included Kevin Callahan, head coach; assistant coaches Crawford, Mike Mangold and Joe DelDuca; and Nancy Jerome, who coordinated students’ transportation to the games, communicated with parents, and even washed uniforms.

A Haddonfield resident and gym teacher at Holy Name School for the past 20 years, Jerome said, “The kids in Camden don’t have a place to relax, to have fun. They should be able to have great life experiences” like youth in neighboring towns.

Local organizations have stepped up to the line, as well, donating basketballs (Campbell’s Soup) and uniforms (Third Base Sports).

The head coach and his assistants, Jerome says, have not only taught the boys the value of teamwork, participation, ball skills and hard work, but they have also taught the players “how to be young men.” “Our motto is, ‘Everyday we get better, everyday we get stronger in our skills.”

Through practice, car rides, and games, the team has “developed a camaraderie,” he said. “They want everyone else on the team to participate, score a basket.”

“They’re really appreciative,” he added.

So, too, are their parents.

“On behalf of me and the other parents, we have to thank the coaches, for taking time from their own families, and their own children, to support our children,” said Wanda Allen. Her 15-year-old son, Daequan, is an eighth grader on the team who hopes to play basketball next year when he attends Camden Catholic High School.

Wanda has helped transport kids to and from games.

“The team keeps kids busy. I have seen them grow in confidence, ” she said.

The traveling team “is the best experience (my son’s had). He’s grown dramatically, on and off the court,” said India Jackson. Next year, Jalin is going to St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, and he hopes to make the basketball team.

She has seen her son’s “positive attitude and effort. He took everything the coaches gave him, and put it back out on the court. The coaches did an excellent job.”

With constant practice and games, basketball “has kept him busy, out of the streets,” she said. “It’s something he looks forward to. He doesn’t want to stop playing.”

Although the traveling team’s basketball season is over, intramurals have begun. Then the Camden students will participate in St. Rose of Lima’s summer league, followed by tryouts for next year’s traveling team.

Jerome is optimistic that these first 12 boys of Camden’s team will be the best ambassadors of the program, being seen as “leaders” on the intramural court, passing along their own basketball skills,and persuading their friends to play in the fall.

Jackson has already seen her son Jalin’s influence at home, as his younger brother, Azan, hopes to play in the league next year when he enters sixth grade.

“I look forward to seeing the program grow,” she said.

Wanda Allen agrees.

“It can only get bigger and better.”

Categories: Catholic School News

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