When you think of a cradle for basketball beginnings, Truckee probably isn�t the first town that comes to mind. But Truckee actually has a rich basketball tradition, although its legacy isn�t about sending anyone to the professional ranks. Truckee basketball is about moving, dribbling, and shooting as snow piles up outside. It�s kids learning key life skills like teamwork, fair play, and hard work while having fun on the court. It�s adults flirting with retirement age who play to stay in shape and get together with friends. Truckee basketball is a legacy of learning and teaching, for the love of the game. The Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District (TDRPD) currently runs basketball programs for everyone from first grade to adults over 50. Participation in youth basketball has grown as fast as the town. In the mid 1980s, Truckee had 5 youth basketball teams and no girls� teams. Today there are 37 youth basketball teams. The District began separate girls� teams in 1995 and now has several girls� teams in each age group. Plus, this season marks the third year TDRPD has offered first and second grade basketball. Angelo Tenorio is the Youth Sports Coordinator for the District. During the winter, Tenorio, his staff and volunteers spend most Saturdays and many weekdays in one of our local school gyms. They are there to teach basketball to Truckee youth as they officiate games, instruct players, and work with coaches. The community-at-large also gives a lot of support � local businesses sponsor teams, coaches volunteer their time for practices and games, and parents line gym walls, hooting and hollering. This winter I coached a fifth and sixth grade basketball team. For years, I have played the game, usually street ball, but I have never coached. One of the great kids I coached was Tony Rodriguez. Tony made some brilliant moves on the court during games but my favorite moment from the season was at one of our practices. Tony suggested a play we should run, so I listened and then stepped back as he explained to each player what his job was on the play. We ran that play all season and it was nice to see the kids work together to solve a problem. Our team didn�t win every game but the kids and their coach always had fun. As expected the kids learned a lot, and perhaps less expected, I also learned from my young team. One goal of youth basketball is to better train players for high school ball. If TDRPD creates a program that teaches young kids to play basketball the right way, it naturally helps to improve high school teams. The girls� varsity basketball team at Truckee High made the playoffs this year for the first time in recent memory. I believe that one of the many reasons for this success is the growth of the TDRPD youth league. More importantly than winning trophies, players that move on to play in high school have a healthy outlet during their teenage years and develop a work ethic that stays with them as adults. �Basketball is a great tool for teaching life skills,� says Tenorio, who is also the head coach of the Truckee High School girls� basketball team. As a basketball parent, coach and program coordinator, Tenorio clearly sees the connection between youth sports, high school sports, and lifelong wellness. Both of his children played in the Truckee youth league and each now play for Truckee High School. He has learned firsthand that successful teams must work together, balance different personalities and overcome obstacles. These are the kind of skills that help people solve problems at home and at work. It�s not so much about creating successful basketball players as it is about helping kids become successful adults. TDRPD�s basketball league also offers options for those kids that do not make or play on the high school teams. Teen Basketball started in 1996 when, according to TDRPD General Manager Steve Randall, there was a public outcry for more programs for high school students. Supported in part by the Truckee Optimist Club, this year�s Teen Ball involved more than 50 high school students on 6 teams. While you may not find the next Michael Jordan playing Truckee�s Teen Ball you will find a fast-paced co-ed league that gives the kids something healthy to do on Friday and Saturday nights. And who knows where these kids may go � Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team. In Truckee the �big kids� get to play too. One of the longest running basketball programs in Truckee is Lunch Time Basketball. Lunch Ball was started in 1986 and designed as a low-key way for adults to exercise during the lunch hour. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:30 a.m., anywhere from 10 to 20 adults meet to play pick-up games. While most communities play a system where the winning team stays and gets to play all day, in Truckee everyone plays equal. Teams play a minimum of two games whether they win or lose. Randall said he runs Lunch Ball this way because everyone is there to break a sweat and have some fun. While most players like to win, it�s nice to know that if you miss the game-winning shot you still get to play. Many of the adult teams for TDRPD were formed through friendships in this informal lunch league. Some locals such as Rob McCarthy and Michael Graham have been playing Lunch Ball for more than 15 years. The games are played at the Veterans Hall perched atop downtown Truckee � the atmosphere is laid back and often leads to some of the most entertaining and fun games of any age group. If you can�t make Lunch Ball, Truckee has several different adult leagues. Adults play full court in two different divisions. One of the most popular leagues Truckee offers is the 40 and over, 3-on-3 league. Started in 1992 to accommodate a changing Truckee population, this league is a great way to stay in shape and catch up with old friends. Games are competitive but things are kept in perspective. There are smiles (almost always) on the players� faces and in even the most heated game if someone goes down on the floor, there are a few hands ready to help him or her up each time. This year the TDRPD expanded its basketball roster even further by offering 50 and older �drop nights� where adults can play pick-up or just shoot a few hoops. Affectionately known as the �dunking dinosaurs� this program expands TDRPD�s basketball age range from 6 to 60 years. Basketball is big in Truckee and the young and old alike share in the benefits. The TDRPD�s real goal is not to produce the best basketball players but the best people. See you on the court.
Pete Kristian is the Adult Sports Coordinator for the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District. He spends his Saturdays in the winter refereeing youth basketball games. For more information on basketball programs in Truckee call 582-7720.


  • Moonshine Ink Staff

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