Jeremy Kelley on March 16, 2017
Ahhh…March Madness…the time of year where die-hard fans, casual fans and just about everyone in-between focuses their attention on basketball and their NCAA Tournament brackets! Here at the JCC, we are no different – whether it’s Sherree Hall running her annual poll for the staff or the typical conversations between members about their brackets or their favorites to win it all or who they like in the 12 vs 5 matchup.
However, on the court at the JCC, where the action actually takes place, March is no different than October or January or any other month for that matter. At the JCC, where it is always basketball season, we wanted to take a moment to review the regions of our JCC basketball program bracket. Each bracket breakdown is complete with a Sleeper Pick, an MVP, a Top Player or a Must See Event. We hope you enjoy!
This region features the youngest of our participants, often referred to as the Little Rookies or Little Champs Super Hoopers. This age group (K-grade 2) has seen an increase in participation over the past several years due to a renewed emphasis on the importance of getting younger players excited about the game of basketball. In addition to the Little Champ Super Hoopers program, which has been in existence for decades and had more than 100 participants for the 3rd straight season in 2016-2017, there are also Fall and Spring programs that focus on developing fundamental skills in a fun and energetic environment, year-round.
Sleeper Pick – Our volunteer coaches, all of whom are 9th grade students at local high schools who give their time and energy to make the experience for these players as enjoyable and educational as possible.
Easily the largest and most competitive bracket, the Kaufmann Region features over 300 participants in Grades 3-8 on an annual basis. This includes our Harry B Davis Clinic, the longest running JCC basketball program to date, as well as our Travel teams, preseason minicamps and Spring leagues and clinics. All of these programs are developed and organized with players of all ages and skill levels in mind. Whether you are a rookie, an MVP or a role player, we have something to help take your game to the next level. Our goal is simple – to teach players how to play the game “the right way”.
Top Player – The Travel basketball program, which has nearly 90 participants on 9 teams (both Boys and Girls) from 5th grade through 12th Grade. These teams compete against schools and community groups throughout the Pittsburgh area and consistently win Championships in their respective leagues. year in and year out. while representing the JCC with class on and off the court.
The Forbes Region is one of the most important of the regions as these High School students not only participate in our recreational and competitive leagues throughout the season but they also serve as coaches, referees, scorekeepers and most importantly role models to the younger players in the program. These young men and women come from different neighborhoods, backgrounds and schools and truly quantify what makes the JCC basketball program so unique. Our program provides as many competitive basketball opportunities as it does social opportunities to help grow the next generation of players, coaches and parents.
MVP – Not only do these young adults learn how to be coaches and leaders on the court, but they also take part in ongoing training off the court as part of the Mentors in Violence Prevention program. This program is nationally recognized as a tool to help young men and women cultivate and promote healthy relationships and ultimately helps them become better coaches, counselors and people – not only improving our program but also the individuals themselves.
Probably the smallest of the regions is the Darlington Region, which includes all of our adult basketball programming. While the numbers may be less than the youth programs, the demand is growing each and every year. We offer designated times several times per week for members to show up and play pick-up games free of charge. These pickup games often exceed 30 or more players and the desire to “win and stay on” becomes very apparent! In addition to these 18 and older times, we are currently working to provide a time for those players 45 and older to come and compete in games more suitable for the “craftier” player, whose physical skills may have diminished a bit but whose knowledge of the game is better than ever. In addition to these recreational opportunities, we also have a competitive league for adults 18 and over that includes players with collegiate and professional experience. Check out a game sometime as it has earned the reputation of being one of the more competitive leagues in the city!
Must See Event – The Larry Ruttenberg Adult League, which takes place on Wednesday evenings throughout the year. There are leagues in the Fall, Spring and Summer and some of the best local players compete week in and week out for the Championship in what is quickly becoming one of the best leagues in the Pittsburgh area.
The allure of March Madness, and really college sports in general, is that they get you with feelings instead of flash. This is also what sets our JCC basketball program apart from others in the Pittsburgh area. Much like our name, we strive to create a community at the JCC; a basketball “family” of sorts. We provide a program where young adults dedicate their time and energy to coach and mentor younger players just like their coaches did for many of them years ago.
The student becomes the teacher. The player becomes the coach. The legacy continues.
Jeremy Kelley is Department Director Sports & Recreation