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New kids’ basketball program will take the court in Nanaimo

Island Swish, for children in kindergarten through Grade 7, plans to tip off in September

A new kids’ basketball program is tipping off, hoping to court the next generation of players.

Island Swish is planning to launch this coming September and is trying to spread the word now.

The new program, for children in kindergarten to Grade 7, will be directed by Vancouver Island University coaches Matt Kuzminski, Avneet Brar and Scott Marr.

“It’ll be skill-based training, just to get the kids out and liking basketball and having fun,” said Brar, adding that Island Swish may look at a night league for the following spring, but wants to see how the fall session goes first.

He said the intention of Island Swish is to get more kids playing basketball at a young age.

“We found there was kind of a void to be filled with basketball,” Brar said. “Where other sports are having kids participate at a very young age – soccer’s getting in kids early, hockey’s getting in kids early, and baseball even – there wasn’t that for basketball, so we wanted to provide that.”

Island Swish will be not-for-profit, and program fees will go to staffing and facility rental. Venues aren’t yet finalized, but Brar suggested the hope is to have programs accessible for families toward the north and the south ends of the city.

The program is envisioned to go from September to November, with one hour once a week for the youngest ages, an hour and a half for Grades 4-5 and up to twice a week for Grades 6-7. Brar said the emphasis will be on small-space play and “experiential” learning through hands-on training.

He said Island Swish will not only benefit the athletes, but also coaches.

“With myself and Matt having been mentored by [VIU assistant coach] Mark Simpson and developed as coaches by him, it’s just a chance for us to help develop other coaches in the community,” Brar said. “We’ll have various coaches and even Mariner athletes working in the program and we’ll be working towards helping them develop as coaches, as well, while they give back to the kids.”

Brar said Island Swish has been well-received initially.

“Everybody’s been so supportive and excited,” he said.

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