Bishop’s youth basketball programs start this weekend

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Steve Nash Youth Basketball Program and Junior Gaiters Basketball Academy kicks off its first sessions of the fall season on Sept. 27 at the Bishop’s University Sports Centre.
The youth program, better known as the small ball program, teaches kids between 8 and 11 years old about the fundamentals of basketball. The Junior Gaiters hosts a mix of 10 to 13 year olds with recreational and advanced knowledge of the sport.
Despite continuous rule changes regarding the maximum number of people allowed in the same room, Bishop’s Gaiters men’s basketball head coach Rod Gilpin said the Denver and Mitchell Gymnasiums are large enough to accommodate the participants.
“Normally parents are in the gym watching, but obviously that isn’t allowed this year and our coaches will be wearing masks, there will be disinfectant, it’ll be similar to what the kids see at school every day,” said Gilpin.
The long-time Bishop’s coach added that these programs are an important outlet for young, up-and-coming basketball players. After dealing with the last six months, kids are looking for opportunities to play sports again, he said.
The small ball program started roughly 18 years ago, according to Gilpin, thanks to the initiative taken by former Gaiters women’s basketball assistant coach Nathalie Boucher. The Junior Gaiters began about six years ago, attracting some of the region’s best and brightest.
“The summer of 2018 during the Quebec summer games, nine former Junior Gaiters were playing for the Estrie team on the boys and girls side,” Gilpin said. “I think a number of those kids will go on to play in cegep and possibly university basketball.”
The sessions take place every Sunday between 9:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. with both programs sharing the floor for two one-hour slots. Gilpin told The Record this is done to make sure there aren’t too many people on the court; it used to be one two-hour session.
Gilpin also said that the coaches are taking every precaution to create a safe environment. The Junior Gaiters, which normally splits into groups of five to get more one-on-one attention, is going even smaller this year.
“We’ll probably work in groups of three or four for certain things, focusing a lot on individual skills, dribbling, passing, shooting and maintaining space,” Gilpin said.
He added that everyone in the sports facility is taking the COVID-19 situation very seriously. The men’s basketball team is also following strict pandemic rules, Gilpin continued, so he’s already accustomed to the change in dynamics on the court.
The men’s team is practicing, but it’s mostly skill development, he explained, there’s no real competition and they are limited to 15 minutes when engaging in a three-on-three drill. It’s important to him to continue following Quebec’s health and safety measures.
“We’re staying true to those rules, we understand the seriousness of the situation and we’re just trying to weather the storm,” said Gilpin.

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