JANESVILLE

Teenagers can buy a lot of things with $1.

A soda.

A candy bar.

A cheap toy.

A pack of gum.

The Boys & Girls Club of Janesville hopes teens instead spend their money on something more positive that can affect their lives long term: a $1 basketball league.

The club hosted the first session of its evening youth basketball league Tuesday night. Organized and coached by UW-Rock County basketball players, the league teaches participants the fundamentals of the game and lets them compete.

Several basketball leagues operate in the area, but they can be too expensive for some families and have transportation requirements that some can’t meet. The club’s league allows kids to play locally for an affordable price, said Sara Stinski, club executive director.

“We’re worried they (teenagers) don’t have enough evening options,” she said. “We know basketball is something that’s really popular, and we’re hearing it’s creating a nice buzz.”

Club members can play for free. Money from nonmembers—$1 per game or practice—goes toward membership. When participants have paid for 10 basketball nights, they’re halfway toward paying for a membership, which would allow them to participate in other activities, Stinski said.

The membership and league dues contribute little to the club’s bottom line, but requiring kids to pay to play gives them a sense of pride about belonging to the club or league, she said.

About a decade ago, the club hosted several sports leagues. Those died away because of the proximity of the YMCA, but the club is trying to return to those days, Stinski said.

Club leaders have noticed that few teenagers participate in regular activities. Many of the club’s teens enjoy video games, making videos and other creative pursuits rather than sports activities, Stinski said.

“This is just making sure we’re providing lots of variety of activities, so we make sure we’re getting some new faces in the club,” she said.

The basketball league wouldn’t be possible without help. David Harper, a UW-Rock County student and basketball player, talked to club officials about it, and Harper decided to volunteer to coach the kids.

Soon all of the UW-Rock County basketball players—up to a dozen of them—decided to volunteer, too. The students will teach players about teamwork, which is Harper’s favorite part of the sport, he said.

“I love being part of a team. I love the camaraderie of it,” Harper said. “It makes the game more fun.”

They’ll also teach basic skills, such as dribbling, passing and shooting.

“There’s nothing worse than playing basketball and wanting to win, and the person on your team can’t make a layup,” Harper said.

During the second half of the basketball league, teens will face off in an informal tournament, Stinski said.

Stinski is elated UW-Rock County student-athletes are donating their time to help the community’s younger residents. College-focused students who are generous with their time are the type of role models the club wants for its teenagers, she said.

“We were really excited when the team and David reached out to us, and we’re really grateful for the time that they’re giving the club,” she said. “They’re amazing guys, and we’re so grateful to them for finding a way to pay it forward.”

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