Travel basketball is about much more than just the game
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron, Marlborough - posted Tue., Mar. 29, 2011
Transitions can be difficult. And, according to an article by the National Association of School Psychologists (nasponline.org), “for young people one of the most difficult transitions is the one from elementary to middle school.” As the article goes on to point out, “at the same time that young adolescents are adapting to hormonally-induced physical, emotional, and cognitive changes, they suddenly enter new educational environments that are typically less nurturing, larger, more departmentalized (e.g., going from on classroom to another), more competitive, and more demanding academically.”
In small towns like Hebron, Andover and Marlborough, kids are often transitioning from a school system full of their neighbors to a regional system drawing kids from a number of different towns. That’s where activities such as the travel basketball league can help to develop early friendships and alleviate some of the stress.
According to Mike Gonsor, head coach of the Hebron fifth- and sixth-grade travel basketball team (The Hebron Heats), the connection between his team and the Marborough fifth- and sixth-grade girls is especially close. “A lot of the girls are friends, and most of them will be going to school together next year at RHAM Middle School,” said Gonsor. “There is a mutual respect and high standard of sportsmanship between the kids, coaches, and parents, which makes every game fun, which is what it’s all about.”
During the regular season, the teams played each other four times and were 2-2. Gonsor called a March 21 meeting of the teams at the Marlborough Madness Tournament the “rubber game – for bragging rights.” Hebron ended up winning the game, and Gonsor said that quite a few of the Marlborough girls planned to cheer Hebron on during the final game against Mansfield (Mansfield eventually won the tournament). Many of the girls also play together on the Spring AAU basketball team coached by Marlborough travel team coach Ed Baroncini.
“Some of them are actually on my AAU team,” said Katie Shea, a fifth-grader from Hebron. Shea played for the AAU team in fourth grade, where she met a number of the girls who also play for the Marlborough travel team. She hoped to continue playing for both the travel and AAU teams, with an eye on eventually trying out for the RHAM Middle School team. “It’s very likely that most of these girls will be trying out at RHAM Middle School,” said Gonsor.
Shea agreed that knowing kids from both Marlborough and Hebron could be a benefit both socially and athletically when she enters RHAM. Not only will she already have friends from other towns, but she’ll already be familiar with their styles and strengths on the court. “I think it could be helpful,” said Shea.
“Unfortunately, sometimes you can have issues when you’re dealing with kids this age,” said Gonsor. “We’ve never had any issues at all between these two teams. They always treat each other very well. I think it helps that the coaches share the same philosophy - play hard, but treat your opponent with respect. Results will follow.”