After a year without basketball the Niagara Rangers development program is back on the court. Coach Emily Bonisteel couldn’t be happier.
“I’m excited to see the energy they bring back to the court,” the third-year kinesiology student said last Saturday, the first day back. “I think missing a year is going to make it that much better. It’s going to be interesting to see where these kids are two years later and two years older,”
One big change to the development league for the time being is location.
Program founder Jennifer Caughill was waiting to hear when the District School Board of Niagara would be allowing outside non-profit organizations to use their facilities. With the uncertainty revolving around that, they decided to run the program out of the old Virgil Public School until their usual home at Crossroads becomes available. That might not happen until January.
The always-positive Bonisteel doesn’t see that as a problem.
“Obviously, the floor is tile instead of wood,” she laughed, “but honestly, anywhere we can get into a gym right now, I’m so beyond thankful. A net, a floor, and a ball, that’s all you need. The kids are here, that’s all that matters.”
Another change is that COVID restrictions currently are not allowing parents to come into the gym to watch the sessions.
The Rangers are running two separate age groups each Saturday in their development league. The Grades 1 and 2 players are scheduled for 9 a.m. until 10 a.m., while the Grades 3 to 5 age group takes the floor from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.
The turnout for the younger group was quite small for the first session, and both Caughill and Bonisteel say that’s due to the last-minute nature of the decision to get things rolling at Virgil Public School.
Sixteen boys and girls showed up for the older age group and they couldn’t wait to begin dribbling and shooting. Bonisteel and her fellow coaches ran the group through some quick stretches then worked on dribbling and shooting technique using some fun basketball games.
Caughill adds that the Rangers will also be running two U17 travel teams this winter, one girls and one boys team. Bruce Caughill, Jennifer’s husband and co-founder of the program, will be helping Jonathon Thorpe coach the boys team, while Shawn Pylypiw will coach the girls.
“Tournaments are up and running across the province,” Jennifer said. “They will be practising here (Virgil Public School) as well. We’re just so lucky to have this gym as a back-up.”
Bonisteel recognized many of the enthusiastic participants from two years ago, and says quite a few of them are now in their fourth year with the Rangers program. But one of the keys to a healthy program is the younger age group, and she works hard to encourage these youngsters to stick with it.
“There’s no wrong move,” she said, “Even if you can’t get the ball into the basket, just come out and enjoy and have fun.”
There is still time to register kids in Grades 1 through 5 in one of these two Saturday morning programs. Interested parents should send an email to Jennifer Caughill at firstname.lastname@example.org.