Hosting a press conference Wednesday morning, Olivet Boys and Girls Club President and CEO Chris Winters announced the organization is adding a new basketball program to its winter line up. Looking to serve 100+ kids, the program will be open to all Olivet and Reading Recreation Commission members.

Offered to help kids develop new skills, on and off the court, the program will take on the curriculum of the Jr. NBA/ Jr. WNBA. Sessions are for ages 6-9 and 10-14, co-ed, and will be hosted at Olivet’s Oakbrook facility, Fridays and Saturdays, January through February.

According Winters, in the past, basketball was usually quick pick up games. Looking to change that model, Winters re-focused the organization to provide higher quality programs.

Students participating in the program will be eligible to compete in Olivet’s recreational league in collaboration with Reading Recreation Commission.

Olivet President Christopher Winters poses for media photos on the basketball court.

To help students develop their skills, Olivet has partnered with all five Berks County colleges to provide coaching support for each session.

“To have Alvernia, Albright, Kutztown, Penn State Berks be part of this with us just shows their commitment to the children of Olivet and give those children a chance to learn skills and team work” Winters said.

“More importantly to give these children a chance to learn something that not only applies on the basketball court, but something they can take out to the community and use in their lives.”

For Winters, the program is not just about basketball, but also an effort to highlight Olivet’s commitment to provide quality community programs.

“Our kids our excited to play the different clubs of Olivet’s and we are appreciative to keep this working relationship going” said Reading Recreation Supervisor Matt Lubas.

Winters says the concept came from their affiliation with the national Boys and Girls Club. While at a training conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Winters learned other Boys and Girls Clubs were successfully implementing the same model.

“What people don’t realize is for people who don’t make the high school, middle school, or JV teams, there really isn’t any other options in terms of a league to play in for the city” said Adonis Fleming, Assistant Recreation Supervisor. “Our goal is to provide something for kids that don’t have that option, that’s tailor made for them.”

Looking at the future, Fleming hopes the program can unite the youth of the city. “The main purpose is to allow kids play the game, work on fundamentals, and gain more confidence in themselves and the game to make it to the next level. If that’s not the case, and they just want to come to a safe place, we can provide that too” said Fleming.