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HOOPS Life will bring its life skills through basketball program to South Lake in September
By Krystal Stock
If you live in Lake County, you may have already heard of the children's basketball training program, HOOPS Life, in Mount Dora lead by Pat Burke, a former NBA player. Burke is expanding the reach of the basketball program to South Lake County, so it will be at the ARC in Clermont in the fall.

"The Hoops Life Program" or "Hoops Life", thus far two-years and running, encompasses a lot more than just the game of basketball. It fosters life and leadership skills in children through the game.

"It's less about basketball, and more about family and relationships and assistance to children", says founder Burke.

Hoops Life focuses on cultivating life skills, leadership, confidence, self-awareness, and accountability within the children.

Nancy Muenzmay, a volunteer community coach for the program, says, "It helps children to think for themselves."

There are written agreements that are decided upon by the children about things like homework, behavior in school, showing up for practice on time, and involving their parents to take an active role as well.

When the "agreement" is broken, such as being tardy for instance, the child will have to clean the gym as a result.

"They have to wipe down the benches or clean off the mats. And they have to do the cleaning while the other kids are playing ball," says Muenzmay.

But it's not just about punishment. The kids are being held accountable for their actions and held responsible for their choices. They are empowered to make better choices in the future.

Muenzmay recounts a small girl from the program who was having a tough time making a basket. When she finally did, she had an "aha!" moment.

"'Coach Nancy, it's amazing what you can do if you think before you act!'" exclaimed the young lady to Muenzmay.

Burke says Hoops Life may help to "…build better teams on the court, and pick up the bones of that to talk about what's really happening in life."

"They can work on one of the toughest subjects, themselves."

The program seeks to provide a safe and supportive space for children to be themselves, even if they aren't the star players. It's more about collaboration and learning how to work with a team. One team-oriented exercise states that no one can dribble, but they have to make a basket as a team, so they are encouraged to pass the ball to each other.

Hoops Life asks parents to be an active part of the program as well. A requirement is 100 percent attendance from the parents at all games.

"Mom and dad have to be there, and they have to be at every one of them. The parents are just as much of the program as the children," says Burke.

The Hoops Life Program will begin September 7 and end December 5. The co-ed teams are broken up into two age groups, 7-10 and 10-14. Practice is two times a week, 4:30 to 6pm for the younger age group and 6:15 to 7:45pm for the older.

For more information, visit hoopspatburke.com or call (352) 253-HOOP.


HOOPS
Nancy Muenzmay, on left, is the volunteer community coach for the HOOPS Life Program. Mary Conod is the organization's office manager. (Photo by Krystal Stock)
HOOPS
Former NBA star Pat Burke gestures during the announcement of his HOOPS Life Program for the South Lake Area. The program, now starting its third year, uses basketball as a forum for teaching children life skills. (Photo by Krystal Stock)
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