Douglas Youth Basketball – hoops for fun |

Douglas Youth Basketball – hoops for fun

Dave Price

Christi Burruel and Josh Wilcox well remember the Saturday mornings when they used to rise early to play in the Douglas County Youth Basketball League. The routine is still similar except for one difference – now they’re the coaches helping to teach grade school youngsters how to play the game.

It’s merely part of a cycle that has revolved around the Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department program for 12 years now – a league that operates on the concept of elementary school aged kids playing basketball while supervised by Douglas High School players and coaches. The program was organized by Douglas High coaches Andy Hughes and Randy Green, starting in 1988 with about 50 kids (mostly boys). This year, the program attracted more than 150, including at least 50 girls. combining clinics with league play for second through sixth graders in the Douglas High School and Carson Valley Middle School gyms.

The unique aspect of this program is that each session begins with an hour-long clinic conducted by Douglas High School coaches and then the youngsters play games on regular teams coached by members of the Tigers’ boys and girls teams.

“I love it,” said Wilcox, a senior at Douglas. “It’s awesome. I think the neatest thing is the little kids really look up to you. You tell them to do something and they do it. Everything you say means something to them. And they’re really fun to be around.”

Wilcox remembers when he used to play in the youth league.

“These guys were like my idols,” he said. “I looked up to these guys like they could do no wrong. It’s kinda weird. I always ask myself if these kids think the same way I did when I was that age.”

Burruel remembers when she started with Douglas Youth Basketball as a fifth grade player and would go to the high school games to watch her coaches play.

“It was always exciting to go to the games and see the high school players out there and say, ‘That’s my coach,'” said Burruel, a senior guard. “Now, I coach with Michelle Roza and there are two little girls on our team who are there every night; they’ve even made it to some of our road games. They’ll make signs and hold them up at the games, which makes us feel good.

“It’s kind of funny to be teaching them the same things we’re trying to do ourselves,” Burruel said. “One day we were trying to teach them to box out, and then that night in our game, that was the very thing we were having trouble with ourselves.

The concept for this league was inspired by Joe Romo, a former star athlete at Long Beach Poly High School, according to Green.

“I coached my younger brother in a league similar to this,” said Green, who played for coach Lute Olson at Long Beach City College and later at the University of Houston. “I think it’s beneficial to both groups. The younger kids look up to the high school kids, and at the same time, the older kids enjoy being role models. It’s good for our high school kids because they see: ‘If I’m going to do something, I’d better live up to that expectation myself.’ The kid feels a certain responsibility.”

Kim Smith, a senior on the Douglas girls squad, relishes that responsibility.

“I love it,” she said. “When we come out here, it’s like we’re big sisters. It’s an opportunity for us to take what we’ve learned from our coaches and give it to them, and I think that’s the best thing we can do.

“The kids out here are so great, you can tell the progress they make from week to week. I’d give up every Saturday to do this,” said Smith, whose college goal to go on and participate in the cadet corps program at Texas A&M.

The objective of the program is to teach basketball. The bottom line is to have fun.

“We want them to learn a little bit about basketball and have some fun, and not necessarily in that order,” Green said. “You gotta have fun, otherwise it’s not worth being here.”

There are three basic rules.

“One, we want them to respect each other,” Green said. “Two, we want them to respect the property in terms of the schools where we get to play. And three, we want them to listen to their coaches and try to learn.”

It’s a job Brian Turley and Justin Patay enjoy.

“It’s a really good time. You get to communicate with the kids and teach them a little bit about basketball, and they look up to you,” said Turley, a junior. “It’s kind of like, you get to experience the other side of the game. After you do this, then you know how your coach feels. It’s helped me realize that I can always do better.”

“Whenever they score, they throw their hands up in the air and get all excited, it’s kind of cool,” Patay added.

The Tigers come out to coach and referee games even after they’ve played on Friday night. One weekend, their team bus returned home from Fallon at midnight from a Friday night game, they worked youth league on Saturday morning and then played another game later that night against Hug in Reno.

“Sometimes I wake up on Saturday morning and think, ‘Do I want to do this.’ And then I say, ‘Yeah,’ because I look forward to seeing them and I know they’re looking forward to seeing me.”

(Chuck Smock, Sports Editor for the Record-Courier, contributed to this story)