The cost of playing top level basketball can add up, but one local charity hopes to raise enough money to make the sport more accessible for everyone.
5 Boros Basketball, which was launched five months ago by Rick Atson and Michael Herring, gives children the opportunity to learn the sport and compete in junior leagues, regardless of their financial situation. The year-round league currently accepts kids up to the age of 16.
“When I grew up playing basketball, we didn’t have to pay,” said Rick Atson, co-director of 5 Boros Basketball. “There are so many kids who want to play on a team or in tournaments and can’t afford to, so we want to give them that opportunity.”
Boys’ teams are divided among three groups in a 13-and-under, 14-and-under, and 16-and-under league. Atson says that would like to add girls’ teams and additional age groups, but that the cost of renting gym space makes this difficult.
“We got a deal renting a gym in Middle Village for $25 an hour, but that still adds up,” said Atson. “If it were up to me, we’d have ten teams, but someone would need to donate the gym space to us.”
Atson says that the cost of playing competitive basketball can add up. Uniforms cost $100, and the team entry fee for a tournament is $400. For tournaments well outside of the city, hotel and food costs have to be factored in.
Kids who participate in 5 Boros Basketball pay for their uniforms out of pocket, but accept donations from sponsors and fundraise on their own to subsidize the rest. Their first major fundraiser will take place on April 30th, at The American Legion on Leonard Street.
“My wife works at P.S. 110, so we have boxes of candy that the kids sell,” said Atson. “We’ve gotten a couple of sponsors as well, but we’re registered as a 501 C-3 charity and hope to be able to get funding from private foundations as well.”
So far, the demand for the program has been overwhelming. Atson says. Over 70 children tried out for the 16-and-under league, which could only accommodate 12 players.
With the limited number of spaces available, the most talented children ultimately make the squad, which has benefited them greatly in tournament play. In addition to winning the IS8 tournament, which features some of the best junior players in the city, they also recently won the Positive Direction tournament last week.
“We went undefeated in the IS8 tournament, which is unheard of,” said Atson. “We’re still a very new program, so the fact we can only get better is extremely encouraging.”
Atson says he has been involved in community outreach for most of his adult life, working with underprivileged youth and serving as a member of the Lions Club.
“The most frustrating thing to me is that parents complain they want their kids off the streets, but won’t put together the programs to keep them off,” said Atson, who has a 13 year old son, Travis. “For me, this is just a way to give back.”
Free practices for children in grades 4-6 are held at M.S. 126 on Saturdays. For more information, visit www.5borosbasketball.com, or e-mail Atson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.