DERRY — Teaming up on the basketball court is doing more than honing young athletes’ shooting skills.
An after-school program at Derry Village Elementary School pairs young students with those from West Running Brook Middle School and Pinkerton Academy.
The basketball tutorial includes not only the skills needed to play the game, but also teaches participants how to be good sports.
More than 90 Derry Village students signed up, along with 20 older mentors.
The program originated to encourage student success in school through mentoring and physical activity, specifically basketball.
Program supporter Jen Pollini said the program began as a way to teach the fundamentals of basketball at an early age.
“Typically, the skills and drills programs offered have a fee associated with them and require transportation to the facility,” she said. “Having the program located at the elementary school and free of charge opens the program up to those children who many not be able to attend otherwise.”
Mentors are the older students who work with the younger elementary and kindergarten-aged children to teach the game, and ways to be a good friend on and off the court.
Adult volunteers, including parents, also take part in the program as mentors.
Skills and drills are broken out by age group and mentors are paired with adult volunteers to lead those groups.
Pollini said another important reason for the program is that adult community members come together to provide positive role models.
“The program is really a win for all parties involved,” she said. “While coaching the students, the mentors can help to improve the child’s self-confidence and interest in school. The combination demonstrates the importance of academics and athletics.”
She said the mentors reap rewards as well.
“While taking a leadership role, they can feel a sense of pride that they are making a difference in a child’s life,” Pollini said. “I believe that through this type of role the athletes can learn more about themselves.”
The program ran for three weeks and ended for the year May 27.