Clovis youth ages 8 to 13 will have a chance to showcase their basketball shot Sunday in a competition aimed at teaching respect, dedication, loyalty and self-esteem.
Dean Marney, coordinator of the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Program in Clovis and exalted ruler of the Clovis-Portales Elks lodge, recently visited Clovis schools to promote the contest. He hopes to have two participants, one boy and one girl, from each school.
Marney said the program aims to attract the top two students from each school but any student age 8 to 13 is welcome to participate.
“Hopefully the kids will learn about discipline and the importance of practice and hard work and how to accept defeat or win gracefully,” Marney said.
“We’re going to try to have every kid get something because everybody’s a winner.”
The contest has two divisions, boys and girls, and three categories in each division, 8-9, 10-11and 12-13. Participants will be divided into the respective age groups and each kid gets 21 shots and can only bounce the ball once between each shot. The best scores will be taken.
The top girl and boy from each age group will receive an Elks-sponsored trip to Artesia to compete in the southeast district competition. Winners will go on to Albuquerque to participate in the Hoop Shoot state tournament. Statewide winners will compete in the national finals in Springfield, Mass.
Prizes for first, second and third place shooters in the Clovis competition include sports bags, basketballs, sweat bands and water bottles.
“I thought the kids would be able to utilize these things better than a trophy,” Marney said.
“Any kid can participate in sports and make it fun. This is a ‘yes to hoop shoot, no to drugs’ event.”
Niki Cordova, 17, a point guard for the Clovis Lady Wildcats, has participated in three Hoop Shoot competitions. Her first performance took her to regionals. Her second performance at age 13 sent her to nationals, where she came in at third place.
“It was really fun to go up against other people. You don’t know how good they are. You just have to go out and do your best. It was nice meeting all those other people and traveling to different places.”
Cordova said her success at Hoop Shoot took practicing her free throw an hour to two hours week nights at the Yucca Middle School gym. She also practiced an hour or two on weekends at Roy Walker Community Center.
“The kids this Sunday should focus on what they’re doing. Don’t worry about anybody else. That will freak you out; your mind will mess with you and you’ll start messing up. You just got to go up there, calm yourself, and tell yourself you’re going to put it in the basket.”