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No-frills hoops – informal youth league in Marysville
The mercury hovered near 90, but the kids teamed up by T-shirt color playing basketball outside on the Marysville High School campus late Thursday afternoon were not complaining.
They were getting a lot of adult attention, and a lot of praise.
The informal league — 22 elementary and middle school kids and nine adults — was organized by Marysville City Councilman Ricky Samayoa and is now in its sixth and final week.
It has made coaches out of police officers and other public figures, and it's the start of what Samayoa hopes will become some version of a recreation department, he says.
Funding cuts eliminated a formal city rec department several years ago.
But that doesn't mean people have to go without, Samayoa said.
"You have to create something affordable for families," said the Head Start supervisor, who grew up playing basketball in San Francisco. "We don't have a lot of funding, so we're going to have to rely on these kinds of collaborations."
The collaboration at work on Thursday involved the Marysville Police Department, CalFire and the Marysville Fire Department, City Council, Planning Commission, Allyn Scott Youth & Community Center, Marysville Joint Unified School District, and several individual school administrators.
"You don't have to look at the ball," instructed Sgt. Chris Sachs of the Marysville Police Department. "Just look at the spot."
Damien Miller, 13, nodded. His bangs were sticking to his forehead. But he flicked them aside took a few more shots — using the backboard this time.
Mariella Vargas, 10, was the tiniest person out there.
Her long black ponytail danced as she dodged other players and jostled for position.
"Come out. Give me five," said her coach, Chief Mike Carr of CalFire.
"This is how you change the city," said Samayoa of the sports project, which used money from a Police Athletics League grant to purchase a few basketballs and whistles.
"You get people to do things together without having to spend a whole lot of money," he said.
On Tuesdays, the kids and coaches come out for basketball practice: basic skills instruction and conditioning drills. Thursdays are game days.
They started with only 10 kids, all of them middle-schoolers, Samayoa said.
"But they were like, 'Can my sister play? Can my brother play? Can my neighbor play?'"
They developed four teams, all of them co-ed and with mixed ages. They're color-coded by T-shirts — a $5 purchase by participating kids.
The shirts were their only expense, Samayoa said.
"We've got soccer leagues and Little League and all that already," he said. "But those things are expensive. Not everyone can afford it."
And because the pilot basketball program is neighborhood-based, he said, "kids can ride their bikes over. It's simple."
"It's great. All they have to do is show up," said Councilwoman Christina Billeci, who has been a regular spectator.
On Thursday, more than a dozen parents hovered around a picnic table or sat on lawn chairs they had brought to the courts outside the Field House at Marysville High.
"A lot of them stay to watch," said Billeci.
Some call from the sidelines and cheer their kids on.
But with several police officers — some of them uniformed — and other public officials there to manage the proceedings, most family members kept their distance and cheered from afar.
Samayoa said he hopes to expand the basketball program and to continue working with multiple agencies and organizations — particularly the Allyn Scott facility — to provide other healthy neighborhood-oriented activities.
He keeps an eye out, he said, for "underused resources," like the Field House, whose indoor facility has been used for some of the group's basketball games.
"And we haven't even tapped into high school students that might be willing to volunteer, or local businesses that might be willing to sponsor this," he said. "There's opportunities out there. It just takes coordination."