Solanco Youth Basketball has been providing kids with a fun, competitive hoops program for 25 years.
SYB celebrated its silver anniversary with three championship games and a free throw shooting contest Saturday, March 9.
Children in grades kindergarten through 9th grade who live within the Solanco School District are eligible to participate in the league. This season, Solanco Youth Basketball had 346 players on more than 35 teams with a total of 60 volunteer coaches. There were 335 basketball players last year compared to 317 in 2017 and 295 in 2016.
"We are growing each season," league president Scott Bailey said.
SYB also relies heavily on its referees, board members, and support from Solanco School District custodial staff. "We need close to 100 volunteers to keep our program thriving," said Bailey, who played basketball at Solanco High in 1994.
Bailey, a father of six children between first grade and 10th grade, has served as president for four years. He first became involved with SYB as a coach for his daughter's third grade team.
Bailey has help. His wife, Lori, is on the board and is the registration manager. She worked the concession stand during the title games. Vice president Terry Erb also referees many of the boys games. "Terry no longer has any kids of his own in the program, but continues to devote his time and energy because he believes in what the program is accomplishing," Scott Bailey said. The league president also praised his predecessor, Ken Walton. "Ken poured his heart and soul into the league for many years," he said.
Scott Bailey explained SYB's mission: "Solanco Youth Basketball provides a fun, learning and competitive basketball program. We accomplish this through three primary goals: 1. Teach and develop basketball skills in a fun environment. 2. Align our youth program with the high school program so we help our youth and high school programs be successful. 3. Develop our youth beyond just basketball skills. Youth can learn so many life skills through basketball like teamwork, confidence, character, and sportsmanship to name a few. We want to set a positive example for our kids," Bailey said.
Solanco Youth Basketball has worked closely with Solanco High basketball coaches. "Through the strong support of (Solanco High girls basketball coach) Chad McDowell and (former Solanco High boys basketball coach) Scott Long, we have aligned our skills development and philosophy with the high school programs," said Bailey. "The high school head coaches and their staffs can be found at our practices and games supporting and getting to know the youth players. We want to be the feeder system for the high school program. We have 'select teams' in the fifth and sixth grade levels that participate in the Lancaster-Lebanon Travel League. These teams play against schools throughout the area in a more competitive environment. This helps our players hit the ground running as they enter junior high. As an example, almost 100 percent of the Solanco High School girls basketball team that qualified for the state tournament played Solanco Youth Basketball. That is what we strive for."
Said McDowell: "The youth program benefits us at the high school level. They do an awesome job. Scott Bailey, Lori Bailey, the whole group there, they have a great feeder program for our high school team. Without them and the support of that youth program, we wouldn't be where we are today. We've had to build from the youth up and our youth program is one of the best around. Having kids go through that pipeline is very important for our success. It's an awesome organization and I encourage more girls to get out and play."
SYB is also determined to provide a place to play for those who are not members of a school squad. "We provide opportunities to kids who do not make the high school team," Bailey said. "We want our league to also provide fun and competitive basketball to kids who don't have the opportunity to play on the school team. This season we had over 80 kids in our 7th-9th grade division playing basketball who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to play. Many youth programs stop after the 6th grade." There is a "fair play rule" that mandates players receive equal playing time.
Basketball is only part of the equation. Community involvement is just as important, Bailey says. "We want our players to understand that they are part of the Solanco community and its more than playing basketball," the president said. "Two years ago we formed a partnership with the Solanco Food Bank and held a January Food Drive the last two seasons. We collected 1,200 food items each year that were donated to the Solanco Food Bank. We plan to continue this tradition. We had some of our players volunteer to sort and put away all the food."
SYB's Foul Shooting Contest enables the league to provide college scholarships. "Through our Foul Shooting Contest run by Craig Ausel we are able to raise money to provide a scholarship to one boy and one girl graduating Solanco High each year," said Bailey. "These players raise donations and then compete in a foul shooting contest with the proceeds supporting these scholarships. It's another way to give back to the community."
This year's Foul Shooting Contest was a bigger success than usual. One player, Gabriella Pugh of Quarryville, raised a whopping $2,045 with help from her grandmother Bindi Mumma and other family members and friends.
Thanks to efforts of Pugh and the other players, SYB announced it would be able to increase the number of scholarships and amount it awards this year.
Solanco Youth Basketball also assists the families of players who otherwise might not be able to afford participating. "We want our program to be available to the community and strive to keep our costs low," Bailey said. " We offered approximately 20 financial scholarships to players this season who would not have been able to play otherwise. On average, a participant pays $60 for a full season of basketball practices/games and a league t-shirt."
Bailey said SYB is constantly seeking ways to improve. "We have developed more tools for our coaches," said Bailey. "Because we have all volunteer coaches, we developed the SYB Coaches manual and SYB Drill Book. The point is we want to make it easier for our volunteer coaches so we outline the way they should run practice and the skills they should focus on and what drills they can use. This helps the coaches save time and ensure the players are learning. We also developed an SYB Offseason Shooting and Dribbling program. This is a free program included on our website at solancoyouthbasketball.org. This provides players with a step by step program to improve dribbling and shooting skills."
Tom Kreider, Dave Miller, Rick Blevins, Bill Koch, Joe Bledsoe, Jim Landis, and Charlie Miller were among the people who helped found Solanco Youth Basketball in 1994.
The previous youth basketball league in the Quarryville area was operated by SECA through the Lancaster YMCA. "We thought with the parents help we could get the money and put it back into the community," said Blevins.
Dave Miller, Blevins, and Bledsoe were on hand for some of the action March 9. They said there were between 600 and 700 participants in the first season. "We had a low fee to promote it to the community," Dave Miller said.
The goal was simple. "We wanted kids to come back," said Bledsoe.
They did and kids have continued to participate in Solanco Youth Basketball for the last 25 years,
"It's great to see a program stay that long and that strong," Bledsoe said.
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME RESULTS: Division I boys - Wolfpack 40, Terrapins 38. Ben Boyle sank a go-ahead jumper with less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation. Division 2 boys - Kings downed the Wizards. Division 2 girls - Shock 25, Sparks 23. Marissa Cannizzaro had a game-high 13 for the Shock. With the game tied at 21, the Shock's Madison Kut scored consecutive baskets to give her team the lead for good. Teresa Boyer helped keep the Sparks close late.