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Return to Train/Play: Basketball

Armed with a mandate to help promote physical literacy within youth in Greater Sudbury, Active Sudbury has partnered with to bring readers a series of updates from a variety of local sports, as groups search to find ways to help keep local children active, all while remaining compliant to both health protocols as well as the Return to Train/Play guidelines of their governing bodies.

Kyle Beers knew that the basketball training that he would be offering in the summer of 2020 would have to be different. What he did not realize was some of the unintended positive consequences of the alterations that were made, as the Northern Lights Basketball Academy (NLBA) brought their workouts directly to the homes of their clients - quite literally.

"It turns out that parents were much more involved," noted the local teacher, who launched this new venture in March of 2019 and has continued to expand, working hand in hand on some projects with coach Logan Stutz and the Sudbury Five. "A year ago, parents would drop the player off, go to do what they had to do, and then pick the player up."

"But here we are, in their driveway. If it was a morning session, they might be out on their front steps, watching their young athlete workout. We actually had numerous parents participate, getting right in there, doing the drills."

"We also formed a partnership with the City in order to use some of the parks to be able to work with kids who might live in an apartment complex, or with kids from families who might not have a home basketball net," Beers added. "It was cool in the sense that we were able to reach a different group of young athletes that weren't necessarily available before, strictly through gym rentals."

"That was eye opening."

With winter fast approaching, facilities is the topic of choice with many in the youth basketball community. Easily the largest basketball club in the area, the Sudbury Jam have historically relied upon access to school gymnasiums for practice time for their teams, an option that is simply not available, at the moment.

"Where we (NLBA) are at right now, heading into this winter, is that we have secured a local gymnasium (Sudbury Christian Academy) that is willing to do outside rentals with enhanced cleaning procedures," said Beers. "Up here, it's hard, because don't have too many private facilities or multi-sport complexes."

"People have to get creative."

With plenty of discussion currently underway and alternate venues beginning to emerge, Beers is confident that those involved with basketball locally can move ahead, cautiously, with athlete development. "What we are transitioning into is groups of eight to ten athletes, per coach, which is a comfortable number, especially if you are using a standard gym," he said.

"You've got six rims, two halves, so you can still do social distancing. We're just getting to the point of almost having full practices, just with no contact. There is a lot of skill development, one on one stuff, before we layer in passing and other teammates, where you can work on your spacing, your timing."

"I actually think as a (basketball) development trainer, it's actually helpful, the way it's coming in, where we can focus on individual skills and then you layer in teammates and eventually competition. It's the perfect model for training athletes, I feel."

Though complete collaboration, across the board, in the basketball community might be a pipe-dream - as it likely would in pretty much every other sport around - Beers is optimistic that the current challenges can help bridge the gap.

"We are seeing new partnerships, people putting their heads together to help keep the sport alive and growing," he said. "I know that people are talking and things are coming, and I don't know that we would have seen this without Covid."

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