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Volume 20 No. 42
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NBA Jr. League puts kids through the paces

Compared to other major sports, basketball has few hurdles in getting kids to play. With no huge equipment costs or big spaces required to play, basketball has the highest youth participation rate among team sports, and the NBA has long been helping foster the growth.

Since 2001, the NBA has operated its Jr. NBA program, with even more emphasis to come this fall when the league relaunches the youth program.

The expanded Jr. NBA program will include a network of affiliated youth basketball organizations under the Jr. NBA umbrella, and a series of live, grassroots Jr. NBA events across the country, including camps, clinics and tournaments. The program will have a digital hub that will serve as the home for all things related to youth basketball, and will have expanded youth basketball efforts from the 30 NBA teams.

“We know that basketball is the No. 1 team sport that kids are playing,” said Kathy Behrens, president of social responsibility and player programs for the NBA.

“We don’t see a lot of barriers,” Behrens added. “Basketball is easy to play but also incredibly popular. We feel we need to connect with those kids so that the experience can be a better one.”

In addition to the Jr. NBA program, the NBA runs NBA Fit, which encourages healthy lifestyles among fans. Kaiser Permanente is a sponsor of NBA Fit, which also holds clinics geared toward young fans.

Consider that at last year’s All-Star Week in New York, the league conducted basketball and fitness clinics in 100

Participants in a Jr. NBA clinic in Chicago ran through various drills.
Photo by: NBAE
schools throughout the city as part of its NBA Fit day. The league donated $500,000 to refurbish 10 indoor basketball courts as well.

More efforts to get youth to participate in the sport are run under USA Basketball, which is marketed by the NBA.

USA Basketball conducts a youth development division that, among its efforts to grow the game, includes a coaches and league accreditation program. In 2012, USA Basketball integrated the NBA’s former iHoops youth program into the fold. This month, USA Basketball will kick off a new marketing campaign to promote its youth basketball development program. Nike is partnering with the organization in the effort.

“We will have a coaching symposium, youth clinics and we will also do an open court program to give people around the country a chance to engage in the sport,” said Jim Tooley, executive director and CEO of USA Basketball.

Said Behrens: “USA Basketball will continue to have a huge role with us. Clearly we need to create a better education experience for those who are coaching kids.”