BC Basketball Takes Center Court

 BC Basketball Takes Center Court

By Dan Guarino

Summer is in the air as whistles blow, basketballs hit the asphalt, cheers go up and the Broad Channel Athletic Club (BCAC) Shamrock Summer Shootout starts a whole new season.

The program, now going strong for over 25 years, brings together boys and girls to learn the basics of basketball and teamwork and have fun. Hundreds of kids in bright colored team t-shirts gather Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. to hit the courts at Broad Channel’s 17th Road Park. The popular program returned from a pandemic prompted hiatus last year just as the park was finishing a complete renovation.

This year the program started on June 8 and will run for six weeks, which will be followed by playoff games and championship matches for the older divisions.

“This is a fun educational program that allows children of all ability levels to come together and enjoy a fun night out on the basketball court,” explains the BCAC’s Caroline Feeney.

“Currently there are almost 40 teams,” she explains, “which means almost 400 players. The players in our league consist of children from Broad Channel, Breezy Point, Neponsit, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park, Rockaway Beach, Far Rockaway, Howard Beach and Ozone Park.”

Ranging in age from 5 to 12 years old, the young players are broken down into divisions. Feeney explains these consist of the “Tykes, which would be our current kindergarteners, Peanuts, which is current first and second graders, Rascals, which is third and fourth grade, and our Juniors, which is current fifth and sixth graders.” Each division will play a minimum of six games.

Once teams are established, out on the court coaches start by learning each child’s name, teaching them the basics about the game and how to play it, and run through practices in dribbling, passing, and shooting for the basket.

After this, same division teams will play each other, often with at least two games going on adjoining courts at the same time. The afternoon/early evening will usually turn into a community event as neighbors, parents, family, and friends turn out to cheer the youngsters on. Many not only come out to watch, but also help keep the program going each year.

The Summer Shoutout is entirely run by coordinators and coaches who are volunteering their time. Many coordinators also double as coaches within their own divisions. Additionally, Feeney notes, “the responsibility of registration, ordering shirts, making schedules, and setting up the courts is divided amongst a few volunteers. Many hours go into making sure that the program runs smoothly and all are able to enjoy themselves.”

Feeney herself has been with the program since her daughter was a Tyke who is now playing in the Junior Division. “My son is now in the Peanut division, which I am the coordinator of.”

The BCAC Shamrock Summer Shootout is supported by some 40-plus businesses and organizations. The various team t-shirts are emblazoned with the names of many of those sponsors. In addition, the BCAC works hard each year to keep registration fees low to make the program as affordable and accessible to as many kids and families as possible.

But beyond the dunks, dribbles, and drives, as many players, volunteers, coaches, and coordinators have stated, the BCAC Shamrock Summer Shootout has always been about so much more.

“Besides teaching basketball skills, players can form friendships and build confidence on the court,” Feeney says. “When children are a part of a sports team, they become confident and feel more valued as members of our community because they feel like they belong to a part of their community.

“Players are always very excited to make their first basket or rebound or slap each other a high-five on the court. The most impressive thing I notice is that the skilled players encourage and support the beginners by assisting them in passing the ball and allowing them to make the shot as well. They are playing with their friends so although it’s competitive, it’s also uplifting and fun.”

The players also learn by example, she says. “When they see the commitment of their coaches, we hope that they in turn will give back to their own communities, whether it is a small thing like picking up a piece of garbage at the park or returning back as coaches themselves one day.”

The hard work, on and off the court, the camaraderie, sports and life lessons, fun and enthusiasm keeps players and their parents signing up again and again, and attracts more and more new ones from the Rockaways, Broad Channel and beyond each year.

“My favorite part about the programs is watching the players return year after year excited to see friends from other neighborhoods as well as their own neighborhood, and forming relationships and playing basketball,” Feeney reflects. “It is also nice to see parents supporting their children’s desires to learn or develop their skills in basketball.”

Besides the annual summer basketball program, the Broad Channel Athletic Club hosts a variety of sports activities for boys and girls all year round. Founded in 1961, the BCAC offers football, baseball, softball, soccer, basketball and swimming and maintains their own extensive sports field and clubhouse at 125 Cross Bay Blvd.

For more information, contact admin@bcacny.com or go to www.bcacny.com or check out “BCAC Shamrocks” on Facebook.

Photos by Dan Guarino and Caroline Feeney.

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