Cheshire Parks & Recreation Program Coordinator Sarah Straker was a high school and college basketball standout.
She has since gone on to coach the sport at various levels. She’s such a fan of the game that she keeps a basketball in her car to this day. And she’s always experimenting with her department’s rec sports offerings, looking for new ways of making basketball leagues a more enjoyable and rewarding experience for all participants.
To that end, Straker is encouraging parents to register their children as soon as possible for fall and winter leagues. Unlike in years past, registration will close on Oct. 1, with no late registrations accepted. Straker says this will allow Parks & Rec to get everything organized in order to maximize the positive experience for participants.
“It’s a bit of trial and error, where we see what works and what doesn’t and keep moving on,” said Straker.
In addition to getting players registered in a timely fashion, Straker is also asking for parent volunteers to serve as coaches at all levels. Those who sign on will be expected to help young players “do rotations correctly” and are, according to Straker, crucial parts of making the leagues work.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the volunteer coaches,” she admitted. Those interested can contact Straker through the Parks & Rec website.
Last season, Straker estimates there were 400 to 500 players from all school grade levels, meaning getting players organized into teams of 9 to 10 players was a challenge.
“Everyone gets on a team,” she said, “and we’re not doing evaluations, just ranking ability to play. It’s a quick process.” That allows for balance throughout the leagues. Also, she noted, “you can’t judge by height.”
Those wishing to register will be using the new MyRec system which the Town rolled out over the summer. Straker says it’s “super user-friendly” and an upgrade on the previous registration and payment system.
Straker wants to “take time to bring back the fun aspects” but she also wants to emphasize “progression skills” for the early grade levels.
“When you’re young it’s important to work on skills each practice. It will make kids into stronger players,” she explained.
Those skills even include basics such as where to be on the court.
“Once they have the basics, they can get into scrimmages and eventually games later in the winter,” Straker stated.
For the high school league, enhancements will include new higher-quality dri-fit jerseys, team names based on NBA franchises, and a referee for games. The work of tracking player statistics, updating the standings, and other administrative tasks will continue to be done by a League Coordinator.
If a player ends up making the varsity team at the High School, the application fee can be refunded, Straker explained.
“My job is finding out how do we put the fun back in it,” said Straker.