Youth basketball program gets board approval

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

It’s unlikely that Eminence High School Varsity Basketball Coach Chris Nethery and Mark Blackburn expected the deluge of questions and concerns that rained down on them at the Eminence Independent School Board meeting August 19.

Nethery and Blackburn presented a request for rental of the school gym for Eminence Youth Boy’s Basketball games. They have formed a team of fifth and sixth grade boys to play inter-squad games with neighboring city and county teams.

Blackburn told board members more games were essential for these teams to move forward. “Each time they’re on the court, they gain experience,” he said. “Eminence will get back on the map.”

Nethery pointed out that in past seasons Eminence played only seven to eight games per season while other regions played 20 to 80. “Gallatin County plays between 30 and 40,” he said. “They’re playing the number of games it takes to get better.”

Nethery said he believes the league could be a springboard to involve more youth and the community as a whole in basketball. Blackburn agreed. “We have a good bunch of athletes,” he said.

Blackburn said that eventually the group would seek donations for regular uniforms because teams currently play games in practice uniforms. He also said the group is seeking sponsors to defray costs.

Board President Brenda Chism expressed concern that kids would be playing games without adequate practice. “You’ve got to work with them,” she said. “They need the fundamentals.” Nethery stated that practices would be held before the games. “We will teach them the game,” he said. Blackburn said he also has scheduled practices at the community center.

Board member Tony Adams questioned the inclusion of only fifth and sixth graders. “You can target fifth and sixth grades,” he said, “but you’ve got to take it and carry it to middle school, freshmen and junior varsity.” Adams also said the league needed guidelines. “If you’re going to build a program, for instance, you’ve got to eliminate kids with bad grades,” he said.

Chism noted in 2007 Nethery and Blackburn had worked with the same group of students, then in fourth grade. “It looks like you’re only serving one group,” she said. Nethery said they are not trying to cut out younger children. He explained that the amount of work and commitment it took to run a basketball program was staggering. “It’s just that we have people in place for fifth and sixth graders,” Nethery said.

Board member Ben Coomes questioned why there were no girls included. “You’re saying fifth and sixth grade boys only?” he asked. “I’m thinking about all of the kids.” Nethery said he was not involved with a girls’ program.

Chism noted that parents have been willing to help out in the past. “We’ve found parents, moms to coach first and second grade girls,” she said.

Nethery said that was how programs he had previously worked with operated. “We played all day,” he said. “Coaches refereed whatever teams were playing, boys and girls.”

Before asking for a motion to approve, Chism told the board that Nethery would be in charge, responsible and answerable to the board. The motion passed unanimously.

Nethery thanked the board for approving the use of the gymnasium for the basketball program and said they would work hard to make it a success. He admitted it would take a lot of team work.

“It takes a lot of people and a huge level of commitment,” he said. “We’re looking for help.”

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