Youth cagers boost their basketball IQ
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Palmerton area youth practice basketball skills during a program sponsored by the Palmerton Youth Basketball Association Sunday in the high school gymnasium.
A basketball clinic, ice cream treats and a brand new Spalding to take home.
While it may sound too good to be true, it was as real as could be for Palmerton area youth who attended a program Sunday in the high school gymnasium.
Sponsored by the Palmerton Youth Basketball Association, the program was full of useful information to help boost the basketball IQ of the youth cagers.
Kyle Kratzer, president, of the PYBA, told the audience of approximately 500 on hand that the organization consists of 23 teams with 215 players.
From there, Kratzer introduced Kathy Beck-DeKorte, a two-time All-America basketball player from Moravian College, as the first of two guest speakers.
Beck-DeKorte, a 1988 graduate of PAHS who scored 1,800 points as a Blue Bomber and 1,936 points at Moravian College, spoke of the importance of the PYBA.
"The youth program was really important to me," Beck-DeKorte said. "I believe it's the reason I was able to go to college and play basketball."
Beck-DeKorte said the youth program taught her many valuable lessons.
"It instilled in us and taught us and drilled the basic fundamentals of basketball," she said. "I couldn't tell you how much I learned."
Beck-DeKorte said it took a lot of hard work and effort on her part.
"I just had this drive inside of me, and I knew I had to practice and work hard," she said. "Whatever it is, in order to be good at it, you have to work hard, and it takes time."
That goes for any and all walks of life, Beck-DeKorte said.
"In any area of your life, if you want to be good at it, it takes time," she said. "It was hard work; I enjoyed it, but I was able to get better."
Beck-DeKorte said that "sports teaches you wonderful life lessons."
"You can learn teamwork, which is great to learn when you get out into the workplace," she said. "When you live life, you're going to have to deal with losing."
Beck said that while being a 1,000-point scorer in both high school and college is a feat she will always treasure, what sticks out most is what she learned from the overall experience.
The second guest speaker was Don Delich, coach of the Palmerton Area High School girls' basketball team.
Delich explained to the youth that by the time they reach ninth grade, they are the end product of what they learned from their youth coaches at an early age.
"At the high school level, we get such praise for being such a great coach, but we don't deserve it," he said. "It's your youth coaches that deserve it."
Delich told the youth "you guys at your age need to listen to your coaches to do it the right way."
"By the time you're in ninth grade, habits are almost impossible to break," he said. "We've had very successful teams, and the youth coaches did a great job."
Delich then asked for all the youth coaches in attendance to stand up and be recognized, at which time they received a warm applause.
On a side note, Delich urged the youth to take advantage of the high school gym, which he said is open to students in the summer five days a week in the months of June and July from 7:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.
"It's hot, sweaty, and they work," he said. "We improve; it's why we [the high school girls basketball team] improve and get into the district playoffs every year."
In addition, Delich said there's also an open gym two to three nights a week at no cost. And, in the summer, he said youth can participate in a two-day mini camp in the gymnasium from 8 a.m. to noon.
Delich spoke highly of junior basketball standout Kelsey Hay, whom he said is just 12 points shy of 1,000 for her career.
In a district playoff game against Bethlehem Catholic, Hay recorded an impressive 22-point, 20-rebound performance.
Delich said an opposing coach who was on hand to recruit Hay spoke to him. It was a conversation he said that had three points; none of which pertained to statistics.
The coach noted that when Hay fouled out, she didn't whine; but, instead, supported her teammates, he said. When her teammate, Casey Rinfret got hurt, Hay was the first player off the bench. And, when Hay didn't get calls from the referees, she still continued to hustle, Delich said.
"My players are not allowed to go up to the scorer's after the game and ask how many points they had," he said. "There's only one number we're concerned with; the final score."
Delich, who said he's been a teacher in the district for many years, emphasized that basketball is a game of skill and fundamentals.
"You have to practice to be good academically," he said. "If you want to be good athletically, there is no coach that has a wand that can make you get better."
That's why students need to be able to balance academics and athletics, Delich said.
"If you want to be good, you have to work at it," he said. "You need to work, both at school, and athletically."
Afterward, the youth were separated into two groups; K-4, and 5-8, at which time they participated in games and received ice cream in the high school cafeteria.
Tammy Suto, an officer of PYBA, said the youth clearly enjoyed the program.
"I'm excited," Suto said. "The kids are having so much fun."
But, perhaps the biggest highlight of the event for the youth occurred toward the tail-end of the program, at which time they gathered with their youth coaches to receive a free Spalding basketball.
Suto said the balls were valued at $30 apiece, but added that her husband, Joe, was able to get them for $5 each as part of a deal he was able to work out with a representative from Spalding.
Kratzer then thanked the officers of the PYBA, as well as those who provided the equipment and other supplies for the event.
He then announced that there would be a basketball camp for students grades 3-7 from 9 a.m. to noon June 13-17. The camp is run by Terry Balliet and Geno Roberts.
"I'd like to thank everyone for coming," Kratzer said. "I hope you all had a god time."
Aaron Steinmetz, an officer of the PYBA, thanked Tammy Suto for bringing "school spirit back to Palmerton."