Youth leagues introduce game of basketball

Basketball in Chilton County is growing and a major reason why is the attention that the game is being given at the youth level.

The YMCA of Chilton County Youth Basketball League is in its fourth year and is one of several leagues in the county that have been created in recent years. Other leagues are held Cornerstone Fitness and Wellness, as well as the communities of Maplesville, Jemison and Isabella.

“The numbers have increased every single year,” league director Jason Griffin said. “It’s competitive and fun basketball.”

Hired officials are used to oversee the games, which gives the games a unique atmosphere and allows the players to experience what it would be like if they continue to play into high school.

“We needed to do something to improve the feeder programs,” Griffin said. “It has dramatically improved the quality of basketball at the school level.”

The idea for the formation of a youth basketball league was introduced four years ago by Griffin, who was on the board of the YMCA at the time.

According to Griffin, while officiating high school basketball games he saw a need for improvement, which starts at the youth level.

The YMCA’s league is co-ed and has produced talent on the court for both the boys and girls school programs in the county.

“Some of my better players are the girls,” Griffin said. “They can play.”

In the league’s first year the ages of participants included 7 to 12 year olds, but the age groups have expanded since the beginning and now include ages 5 to 14.

This year’s league has about 175 players as well as several cheerleaders.

Amanda Baxley coaches with her husband Jason a team of 5 and 6 year olds, the majority of which are being introduced to the game of basketball for the first time.

“It’s all about the very basic fundamentals,” Amanda Baxley said. “Dribbling, passing, shooting and teamwork.”

Shanta Tinsley was in the stands watching her son Torion Good.

“It’s his first time and it’s exciting to see him out there,” Tinsley said. “He’s having a good time and the team is helping work with him to get better. He loves sports, and is always ready to come to practice or the games.

According to Amanda Baxley, one of the teaching lessons is how to keep their hands up on defense, especially for those that have played youth league football and have to learn how to play with more finesse than physicality.

Programs like the youth basketball leagues are helping develop the future athletes of Chilton County.

The YMCA league plays on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with games at the YMCA and Clanton Middle School.

The league will wrap up the current season with a tournament on Feb. 17, where champions from each age group will be crowned, as well as other festivities that will include a three-point shooting contest.

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