Youth Basketball Program Builds More Than Sport Skills in Prince George

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When the Vancouver Grizzlies left for Memphis in 2001, many in the basketball community throughout B.C. wanted to keep its grassroots youth basketball program intact. That included Steve Nash, who stepped in shortly after the Grizzlies departed to support the youth program in B.C.

Today it is named the Steve Nash Youth Basketball Program and is funded in part by 2010 Legacies Now's B.C. Sport Participation Program (BCSP Program). The Steve Nash Youth program's goal is to expand basketball among youth aged 6 to 13 years old. And it has succeeded-the program now runs in 52 communities around the province, including Prince George.

"We have a fun, structured environment that encourages skill development and keeps everyone moving," said Louise Holmes, who organizes the program in the Prince George region. "Kids gain confidence, improve their fitness levels and truly enjoy a great game. Parents appreciate the positive energy of our coaches and the improvement made by their children over the season."

Boys and girls learn basketball fundamentals by practising one-to-three hours per week. The emphasis is always on creating an atmosphere that encourages both skills and self-esteem to flourish.

Getting youth active is important: according to Statistics Canada, 26 per cent of Canadian children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Even small increases in physical activity can have dramatic effects on children's health, and some research has shown a link between regular physical activity and improved grades.

The Steve Nash Youth program is one of more than two dozen programs funded by 2010 Legacies Now, the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada through the BCSP Program. The BCSP Program funds organizations that improve access to sport and since it began in 2004, it has impacted 200,000 people in 110 B.C. communities.

For Basketball B.C., funding from the BCSP Program supports its core group of coaches who are responsible for training volunteers to deliver the program in recreation centres after school and on weekends. To date, 2,900 motivated volunteer coaches around the province, including 65 in Prince George, have been trained to keep the program going strong among B.C. youth.

The BC Sport Participation Program aims to increase sport participation in community and school-based sports, while also increasing participation by seniors and people with disabilities. The program helps provincial and multi-sport organizations extend their community reach and improve the quality of sport delivery. The program is funded by the Province of British Columbia and Sport Canada, and administered by 2010 Legacies Now.