DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
BURNET — After several years under the Upward banner, a Burnet youth basketball program sponsored by two churches is making a few changes, but officials promise to cling to the Christian message.
“The community has wanted a more competitive basketball league, especially for the older kids so it better prepares them for (middle school and high school),” said Shawn Mullen, the recreation director for Hill Country Fellowship in Burnet. “Upward was great, but we didn’t feel it gave us that opportunity to offer the level of competitiveness at the older ages (that) people were looking for.”
So this year, Hill Country Fellowship and First Baptist Church of Burnet developed their own program called 326 Hoops. The name comes from Galatians 3:26, which reads, “We are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Along with raising the level of competitiveness for older youth, Mullen said organizers have reduced the cost to participate to $40 per child. The program is open to boys and girls in first through sixth grades.
The group also will used sanctioned officials.
While there will be some changes, Mullen said the league will continue to hold tight to its Christian beliefs, including having a devotion during each practice and game.
“One thing that’s not changing is that all the kids get the same amount of playing time,” he said. “We want to be competitive and teach the kids the game of basketball, but we also want to respect each child’s experience.”
The third- through sixth-grade divisions will practice twice a week and include a tournament at the end of the season. The coaches will also “draft” their teams Nov. 11. The first- and second-grade division will see few changes because organizers are just trying to help familiarize kids with the game. The first- and second-graders will still only practice once a week.
Some of the changes for the older participants include allowing man-to-man press in the last minutes of the game. Mullen said this will allow kids to get a taste of the type of competition they’ll see in middle and high schools. It’s something Burnet head boys basketball coach Roy Kiser sees as a benefit for the youth.
“I believe the 326 Hoops Basketball League is a step in the right direction for kids in Burnet,” he said. “Its goal of improving skill development in a more realistic game environment will benefit kids of all ages and ability levels while continuing to emphasize the importance of Christ in their lives. I am excited that our churches continue to look for ways to improve how basketball is being practiced and played so that all of our kids have opportunities to improve.”
The league is holding signups 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Burnet High School practice fields, 1000 The Green Mile, and Oct. 25 at Jim Sandell Field, 850 Texas 29 East.
But Mullen said parents can also register their children via the league’s Facebook page. Just search for 326 Hoops.
Call (512) 756-8796 for more information.