Final Four Youth Clinic Teaches Basketball, Life Skills

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Local youth ages 8 to 14 years old hustled, dribbled and practiced drills at the Elzie Odom Athletic Center in Arlington during one of three Coca-Cola NCAA Youth Clinics in North Texas Saturday.

College coaches from across the country visited the clinic to teach boys and girls fundamental basketball skills and techniques.

G.G. Smith, men’s basketball head coach at Loyola University Maryland, instructed youth on defensive slides, rebounding and conditioning. He said the clinic was significant in helping children from the community learn the basketball basics.

“It’s all about teaching the fundamentals at a young age,” Smith said. “So, when they get to middle school, then high school and eventually to college, they’ll have those fundamentals that they need. It’s always fun. It’s always great. It’s always energetic.”

Youth high-fived UT Arlington mascot Blaze, who was decked out in an orange jersey and wore the No. 7.

Greg Young, UTA men’s basketball associate head coach, said attending the clinic is a starting point for children to improve their basketball skills.

Young said children must have a great attitude, great effort and an ability to listen well as the foundations for advancing as athletes in the future.

Ryan Hall, associate director of academic and membership affairs for the NCAA, said the Arlington clinic brought in about 170 youths. Hall remembered attending basketball clinics as a child and said the event encouraged kids to have fun.

The clinic also helped promote fitness and well-being in the community said Dallas Coca-Cola plant manager, Pedro Echeverria.

“Coca-Cola partners with the communities where we do business, and it’s very important for us to promote health and wellness though these clinics,” Echeverria said. “We’re very happy to have partnered with the NCAA to bring these activities through Final Four events that are taking place in Arlington.”

Bedford resident and boys basketball coach, Chad Carpenter, brought his two sons, Chance and Kolby, to the Arlington clinic and said the clinic allowed children to be a part of the NCAA festivities without attending the Final Four games.

Carpenter said the ball handling, offensive moves and shooting techniques the children learned were valuable.

“It’s a great chance to get teaching and coaching tips from experts,” Carpenter said. “I’d like to incorporate this into the practice we have as well.”

Parents also participated in the clinic as they sat in on a panel discussion about student athlete eligibility rules, nutrition and sport injuries, said Ethan Walker, NCAA coordinator of championships and alliances.

“It’s a pretty wide variety of topics that they get into.” Walker said. “I think most parents find it beneficial.”

While the clinics in all three North Texas locations provided offensive, defensive and fitness tips, the City of Arlington acted as a connection point with the area’s youth and the Final Four, Walker said.

“We’re working with local staff, we’re working with local coaches that are also facilitating a lot of these events.” Walker said. “I think it’s just a good connecting point for a lot of different areas coming together.”