By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
During the past cross country season, elementary meets hosted by the New Albany Track Club drew more than 500 children.
The Floyd County Parks and Recreation Department expects that same kind of interest next month when the Floyd County Elementary Basketball League is launched.
The Floyd County Parks Department, in partnership with the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., will start a basketball league in February for third- and fourth-grade boys and girls. Practice will begin in January and games with be played in February, ending with a tournament. The league is just for the nine public elementary schools in Floyd County.
“Our department is very excited to partner with the school corporation in bringing back elementary basketball,” said Floyd County Parks Superintendent Roger Jeffers.
Matt Denison, assistant superintendent/program director for the parks department, will head up and organize the league. He said tryouts at each school begins in January. He said the season will last one month this first year and include both a boys’ and girls’ league. Teams will likely play two games a week on Saturday mornings at one of the three middle schools.
“I think it’s a chance for the kids to see what lies ahead in their future. The middle schools are all beautiful and it’s a chance to showcase those schools,” Denison said. “This first year, the season will only last a month so we can gauge interest. We believe it will be high. This is just the beginning.”
Denison founded and directed Team Southern Indiana, a travel basketball program for kids from across the region for five seasons. He operates Hoosier Hills Hoops leagues with locations across Southern Indiana and had nearly 800 kids in the fall. He is also an assistant coach at New Albany High School.
“I feel we have the right staff person heading up the program in Matt Denison,” Jeffers said. “He has many years of running successful youth basketball programs.”
Elementary sports were cut out of the school corporation a few years ago due to budget constraints. The new league is a partnership between the parks department and school corporation. Costs will be minimal, Jeffers said. Coaches will all be volunteer. Utilities and referees will be the main expenses.
“We are excited that our third- and fourth grade students will have an opportunity in our elementary schools to participate in a basketball league,” said NA-FC School Corp. Superintendent Bruce Hibbard in a press release. “We appreciate Floyd County Parks and Recreational volunteering to give of their time and talents to work with our children.”
Jeffers said the school corporation “has been very supportive” of the joint venture to launch the elementary program.
“It’s a true partnership. It’s great to see two different arms of government work together as one,” Denison said. “We are going to continue to look for ways to collaborate.”
Each player will be charged $10 to participate. However, Denison hopes sponsors will pick up the tab next year.
With no elementary program or New Albany Mini League — which was operated for years by Kenny Sinkhorn — elementary-age students have limited opportunities to play organized basketball. Denison said he sees this as a feeder system for the two NA-FC high schools.
“Elementary basketball is an asset to our rich tradition of basketball here in New Albany. But its purpose goes way beyond helping our program,” said New Albany boys’ varsity coach Jim Shannon in the news release. “It gives young people an opportunity to improve their fundamental skills, to belong to a team, to learn valuable lessons and to have access to exercise, which builds both the body and mind.”
Information has already been distributed to elementary schools. For more information about the program, call Denison at 812-948-5360, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to floydcountyparks.org