SPOKANE, Wash. — With nationally-recognized collegiate teams and being a host city for state high school tournaments, Spokane has earned the title of Hooptown USA. Hoopfest organizers said, now, it's time to bring forth a program that targets youth basketball participation.
Tuesday, local collegiate coaches, school officials and Hoopfest executive director Riley Stockton announced Hooptown Youth League, LLC.
Through this new league, a child’s socioeconomic status, skill level or ability to form a team won’t matter. If they love to play the game, they’re welcomed to register.
Stockton said the league will give more kids a chance to play basketball.
To do this, Hooptown Youth League, LLC. will bring down barriers to access the sport.
“This is just kind of reimagining our youth programming,” Stockton said.
Stockton said reducing barriers will include having kids play in school gyms to limit transportation needs, offering reduced costs to make it easier on parents and allowing players to register as individuals so they don’t need to worry about making a team.
Stockton said over the last 10 to 12 years, youth participation and teams have declined. He also said to round out Spokane's Hooptown USA brand, more focus needs to be put on the success of kids.
“With all the success from high school, colleges, we needed to grow the youth program because it just wasn’t working the way we had it now,” Stockton said.
Stockton noted the rise in entertainment and two years with reduced or no sports contributed to the decline. This is how Hooptown Youth League, LLC. was born.
“All the best life lessons ive learned throughout my years have been through sports," Stockton said. "How to win, how to lose, so if we can do a little bit to have more kids out there playing and give more access to the people who don’t have access, that’s huge for us.”
Other panelists said they hope the league will encourage more female basketball players.
Lisa Fortier, Gonzaga University women’s basketball coach, said there are a lack of league opportunities for girls to move into after completing basketball camps.
According to Hoopfest, there are no 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th grade girls teams participating in Spokane club basketball.
The league will not eliminate high school programs and the Spokane youth sports high school rec league. Grade school kids can still play for coach or club organized teams in tournaments throughout the year.
Stockton said sponsors have already provided $100,000 to kick start the league.
There is still more work to be done before the league's fall 2022 launch date. Stockton said the league still needs to find coaches and referees, implement a potential scholarship program and finalize a budget.
The program is set to launch with registration opening early September 2022.
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