Hoops With A Heart open to those with special needs

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(Posted Sept. 28, 2017)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

Since lacing up his sneakers and taking that first step onto the hardwood floor as a child, Darren Long has been in love with the game of basketball.

His interest never wavered as he fought through the learning curve; it never waned as he pushed through long seasons as a player in high school and college; and it only grew as he saw younger faces staring at him during timeouts, asking for his advice as a coach.

It is a love, he explained, built on the belief that the lessons learned on the court are and always will be greater than the sum of their parts.

“Those courts are a continuation of the classroom to me,” Long said.

Much like the school setting, the long-time educator said, time spent on the court teaches focus and leadership and leaves you with a desire to share the knowledge you learned with those around you.

It can also bring some of the best people into your life.

“I’m still friends with some of the people I played with growing up,” he said.

Though Long’s love for the game has afforded him many opportunities, he knows not everyone is fortunate enough to step onto those hardwood floors.

As an intervention specialist at London High School, he often hears from those who want to be included in the sport but aren’t sure how their abilities would mesh with it.

To make the students feel more included, Long began brainstorming ways to bring those who are not typically abled onto the court. With specialized skills in mind, Long reached out to the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities to see if they could help with the logistics of the vision taking shape in his mind.

After weeks of planning, the board, Long and his Triple Threat Basketball program formed a free skills clinic called Hoops With A Heart to meet the needs of individuals with physical, developmental and/or intellectual disabilities.

“The main goal of this event will be to have fun,” he explained. “It’s a chance to get out, get moving, to learn, to make friends and to get sweaty.”

With the help of former basketball players and coaches as their buddies, participants will learn the fundamentals of the game through a series of skill stations where they will learn how to shoot, work on proper footwork, and go through agility training.

Prizes and food will be dished out to those who attend.

Eight people have already pre-registered for the Oct. 21 event, but Long hopes for many more. He also hopes for many more Hoops With A Heart.

“I want this to become an annual event in our community,” he said.

Participants must pre-register by Oct. 14 so that organizers know how many t-shirts and prizes they need to purchase, how much food to buy, and how many buddies to bring.

Long asked that interested parties contact him at triplethreatmove@gmail.com or (740) 506-3450. Inquiries also can be made at https://triplethreatbasketballblog.wordpress.com or at their Facebook page by searching for Community Organizations, Summer Hoops.

Hoops With A Heart will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 21 at London Elementary School, 380 Elm St., London. The free event is for individuals with special needs who are 8 years of age or older.

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