Sport’s popularity sees junior basketball numbers double

Klaus Sandstrom, left, and Gavin Milligan coach the junior basketball programme.

A junior basketball programme started by a group of dads to give 7 to 11 year olds an opportunity to learn the game has nearly doubled its numbers to 50 kids.

The Mahurangi Junior Basketball kids play Tuesday nights at the Mahurangi College gym and are split into a league of different teams playing round robin tournaments.

Coach Gavin Milligan formed the programme after moving to the area and finding there weren’t options for his daughter to play. He was told there used to be a junior basketball club in Warkworth, but it folded due to low subscription.

“I called in some friends to help me out with the coaching and one thing led to another and it has snowballed quite quickly,” Milligan says.

He says the popularity of basketball has grown quickly among kids because it is a non-contact sport, but is fast-paced and every player gets time with the ball.

“At this stage, it’s just about having fun and playing the game, because if we bog them down with technical aspects they will just lose interest.”

The club has seen a lot of interest after signing up Kurt Vammers, who is known for coaching Tall Blacks player Kirk Penney.

Milligan wants to develop the programme further and would like to have a representative team so they can play invitational tournaments.

But he says the best sign of success for the club will be seeing the Mahurangi College basketball team perform well as they feed through players with more experience.

“We often get asked about the pathway for kids afterwards and at this stage that is playing for their college. We would like to continue them on as a senior club, but we just don’t have the resources between three parents with full time jobs organising it all.”

Klaus Sandstrom started coaching the junior programme when his daughter joined, and now that she has moved up to play for Mahurangi College he is also coaching there.

“It’s great to be following up on these kids as they progress through and so fun to see them playing together again.”

“I think it has been sad that the majority of kids were playing basketball for the first time in college. If even 10 kids from the juniors go on to play basketball at Mahurangi College, we will have a really good team,” he says.


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