Youth Center basketball league play concluded recently with a video broadcast at the Base Theater showing highlights of the season at an awards ceremony. Garry Navas, Youth Sports and Fitness director, said Hill Air Force Base is the only base to do such an end-of-the-year video.
Navas finds that participation in youth sports contributes a lot to the development of the young athletes. "I think it helps them work as a team, and helps them learn how to communicate and interact with other kids their age."
The children who participate in the basketball league, practice weekly, with the number of days dependent upon their age and league. Unlike some other well publicized events off base and around the country, Team Hill parents demonstrate some great sportsmanlike behavior in the stands and generally show great enthusiasm for the program.
Even some relatives come out to support the young athletes.
"We flew in just to see her play," said Shayla Perry's grandmother. "She loves to play. She has since she's been three years old."
"He learns to be on a team. He learns his skills and the fundamentals of basketball and he gets his exercise," said Gary Yancey, after watching his son Maurice play a close fought game. Play between the evenly matched teams on the afternoon of Feb. 27 came to a victory by just one point.
Navas said he finds particular fulfillment in watching the kids progress in their skills. "We always see improvements with every child throughout every season. That is the best part about my job, seeing the smiles on the kids' faces when they make their first basket or goal."
The Youth Center program has had former players participate in leagues off base and then return the following year. "I've had families move off base, enroll their children in off-base sports only to come back to play here because it is a far better run program," Navas said. "I've had coaches (change permanent duty stations) calling me telling me to talk to their sports director to tell them why this program here is so much better than the rest." He is proud of everyone's efforts in the program and said he thinks it is one of the best organized and well-run in an Air Force base of this size.
Every coach is trained and receives a background check and the program holds a parent orientation before the season starts each year, just as a reminder.
"Military parents, for the most part, are very well behaved because they are 'on duty 24 hours a day' and they know their behavior out of the office will affect them in the office. We have a great population of families here at Hill," Navas said.
The sports program always needs volunteer coaches for every sport, the youth director said. Soccer, flag football, T-ball and baseball seasons are still to come and those adults interested in helping young athletes improve their skills are encouraged to apply. Upcoming registration periods for youth participants are as follows: May 3-27 for flag football and July 1-30 for soccer.
For information, call the Youth Center at (801) 777-2419.