Program designed to help kids love basketball

Friday, May 3, 2013
Waterbury Republican-American (print edition)
Waterbury, CT

Although Deneen Fryer’s Crosby High basketball experience never generated any college schol­arship opportunities, it did inspire her.

The sport provided so much joy and balance in her life that as she grew older the words of her high school coach, Bernard Gilliam, res­onated with her. “He always talked about how important it was to give back in life to something that was really good to you,” Fry­er said. “Basketball was real­ly good to me. It made me happy. It taught me lessons. It game me a chance to coach at the North End Rec Center and then at Crosby. And when I was back at Crosby, coach Wardell Ward inspired me to keep giving, too.”

Ultimately, Fryer was motivated to start the organi­zation Hoops 4 Life, which runs basketball leagues year­round to provide opportuni­ties for kids of all ages to improve their basketball skills.

Saturday, Fryer’s Hoops 4 Life hopes to help inspire a new generation of basketball players in the city and sur­rounding towns by hosting a clinic conducted by Connecti­cut Sun star and ESPN ana­lyst Kara Lawson at Crosby.

“The Connecticut Sun heard I had a program differ­ent from AAU, and they wanted to help promote it,” Fryer said. “They sat down with me in December and asked what they could do for me and what I needed to enhance my program.”

She told them she could use a great role model like Law­son to come and tell her story. Maybe then a few more youngsters might be con­vinced to play the sport, and those already in the program would be encouraged to keep playing and improving.

By having Lawson also pro­vide a clinic and a brief nutri­tion lesson to the young ath­letes, Deneen could charge a nonimal fee that would help her offset the cost of running her leagues. That, in turn, allows her to keep the pro­gram’s basketball leagues affordable for all kids.

What began five years ago as a program with just 65 kids split between the middle school and high school divi­sions, Hoops 4 Life now also offers a girls division and a fundamental division for beginners. Fryer organizes leagues in the spring, sum­mer and fall to get kids ready for their winter school sea­son.

The six-week spring league is already completely filled with 186 kids. She expects about double that for the summer league, which last year drew 352.

“There weren’t a lot of places for kids to play basket­ball all year long, so I wanted to start an organization that could offer fall and spring leagues and give kids more opportunities to enhance their basketball skills,” Fryer said. “I also wanted to give back to the community and to the sport.”

In addition to providing a fun, competitive outlet for kids, she also helps give back to the community by strongly encouraging those within the program to complete at least four hours of community service.

While she can’t make that mandatory since she charges the kids $50 for the spring and fall programs and $75 for the summer program, she said the kids and their par­ents have embraced the con­cept of giving back. A few have done as many as 30 hours of community service.

“It can be something as easy a cleaning up their neighbor’s yard or doing some work at their church,” Fryer said. “The kids get to feel good about themselves by doing something to help somebody without expecting anything in return.”

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