NORWICH — After a sweeping success of the new Unstoppable Soccer program in the fall, the Norwich Family YMCA is now offering Unstoppable Basketball beginning on January 25.
The program aims to provide the opportunity for children with unique needs such as high levels of energy, trouble focusing, or intellectual, physical, or developmental differences work as a team, make friends, and learn a new sport.
“Really it’s open to any kid that struggles on I guess a typical basketball team or a typical sports team. Those kids that kind of get left out or don’t play a lot because they struggle with the skills and ability to be able to do it. So it’s a team designed for them so that they can all play,” explained Kara Collins, creator and coach of the programs.
Registration for Unstoppable Basketball is $60 per child, and ends on January 20. The program offers teams for two age groups: four to seven year olds and eight to 12 year olds. Practices run from January 25 to March 15, from 5 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday at the Norwich Family YMCA. To register, pick up a form at the YMCA front desk.
For those needing financial assistance, the YMCA offers the Open Doors Scholarship, and Collins said those with self-directed budgets through organizations such as Springbrook or HCA are also able to use those budgets to cover Unstoppable Basketball registration.
During practices, Collins said children will be “buddied” with a volunteer, who will help them to practice various basketball skills. Ideally, she said children would be partnered with a volunteer on a one-to-one ratio, but is in need of volunteers to make that happen.
“I’d really love to have a one-to-one ratio, which I was very fortunate we were able to do during soccer,” said Collins. “I had quite a few high school students come out and volunteer their time, other parents volunteer their time. It’s a really great way to give back to the community, a really great way to help out a new program in the community.”
She said volunteers of all ages are welcome, and for high school students their time at Unstoppable Basketball can be counted toward volunteer credit hours. Those that need them will be provided volunteer hour logging sheets.
“This is a great opportunity for high school kids to get their volunteer credit hours, helping out and seeing if maybe this is a line of work they want to go into. It’s great for individuals that maybe already work in this line of work, just for anybody,” she said.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Collins at 607-337-0316 or email@example.com, call the YMCA at 607-336-9622, or stop by the Norwich Family YMCA front desk.
Unstoppable Basketball is a great opportunity for children with unique needs to be a part of a team, feel included, and learn skills not only about basketball, but about learning and working both with a team and independently, according to Collins.
“It’s about being part of a team and learning those skills, and making friends is what youth sports is all about: making friends, learning a skill, learning teamwork, learning independent work,” she said. “Inclusion matters, it does. Making sure that everybody feels they have equal access, and especially children. Children deserve to have equal access to athletics and making those friendships and being part of a team. So I think programs like this are just super important for kids in our community.”
For those interested in the program but unsure if their child would qualify, Collins said to contact her at 607-337-0316 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss their child’s needs. Ultimately, she said any child that may struggle on a traditional sports team can join.
“If it’s a child that has ADHD that struggles to play on a basketball team or doesn’t want to do games, they can join. It’s inclusion. Anyone can play, and that’s the whole point is that anyone can play and everyone will play,” Collins explained. “‘Unique need’ is a pretty broad definition, and so what does a unique need look like? A unique need could be ADHD, a unique need could be a physical difference, it could be an intellectual difference, it could just be anything.”
The program doesn’t just benefit children either; Norwich Family YMCA Sports Director Tom Revoir said it was amazing to watch not only the children thrive at Unstoppable Soccer, but also watch the parents of those children see what their kids can do.
“Moms and dads are doing all the work with them, other than the school when they're going into school. So it’s a great way for parents to have an hour off, and allowed to watch their own children grow, both physically and mentally, in a program like that,” said Revoir. “It was incredible. I had a lot of tears from a lot of parents this past fall. They couldn’t believe their kid could do what they were doing.”
“Parents came, they were able to interact with each other. That’s another big thing in sports, parents interact as much as the kids, at practices and games and things like that. And a lot of these parents struggle to form relationships and friendships and stuff because they have a high needs child,” Collins added. “So it was really nice to see that too, these parents kind of all getting together and talking and being able to socialize while their kids were learning a new sport. It was really cool.”
Collins started the Unstoppable Soccer program with the help of the Norwich Family YMCA in the fall of 2022 as part of her college internship requirements. The program was such a success, and an interest in a similar program for basketball was high, so they partnered again to start Unstoppable Basketball. In the future, she said she’s open to the possibility of adding another program, such as baseball or tee ball.
Ultimately, Collins hopes for the continued success of the programs, and continued support of local children.
“I want it to be a successful program, and I feel it’s a program that our community really needs and that will really bring our community together and bridge the gap a little bit,” she said.
For more information on Unstoppable Basketball, contact Kara Collins at 607-337-0316 or email@example.com.