San Diego Sharks Basketball teaming up now in Uptown
By Cynthia Robertson | SDUN Reporter
In the more than five years that Bankers Hill resident Stephen Winters has coached basketball in San Diego, he said he discovered that children aged nine through 13 in the Mission Hills area needed a basketball program. Because of this, Winters created the San Diego Sharks Basketball league, which has been dubbed the “safest league in San Diego.”
“Our league is different because we are not only promoting basketball, we also are promoting good health, safe play and performance results,” Winters said. The program is based at the Presidio Recreation Center, located at 2811 Jackson St. in Old Town.
The focus on good health and safety came about partly due to teaming up with an organization called InjuryFree, which promotes staying safe in sports. The league will also be working with several personal trainers, and Winters plans on hosting a representative from Sharp Medical Center in order to give a brief presentation about what he calls an “alarming diabetes epidemic.”
“At the rate America is going, one out of three kids will have diabetes before adulthood. The main reason why is because families do not understand how to prevent it,” Winters said.
But the main focus about the league, he said, is having fun playing basketball, and Winters infuses the game with the passion for the sport, having grown up in Wichita, Kans. Winter moved to San Diego after graduating from the University of Kansas in 2004.
“People in that area live, breathe and sleep basketball. We love it. I want to bring that energy and passion to San Diego,” he said.
Two seasons ago, when Winters was coaching at the local YMCA, a participant told him that being on the team was the most fun he had ever had playing basketball and he hoped he could play every season.
“He would always give me a high five and say, ‘thanks, Coach.’ When kids say things like that to coaches, it always puts a smile on our faces. It is an amazing feeling,” Winters said.
As league chairperson, Winters said one of the main goals of the game is to teach the kids to have enough fun that will want to return and play the next season. The Sharks seasons include eight games and a tournament, a weekly practice and a skills mini-camp. There are two age groups for the all-boys league: nine – 11 years old and 11 – 13 years old.
Some of the league members are new to the game, while others have played for years and are returning, like 11-year-old Adrian, who Winters calls one of his more advanced team members.
Adrian said that playing in the league helps him become a better player by practicing what he needs to focus on to help the team succeed, including conditioning.
“Even though I don’t like running the sprints, I know that Coach Winters has the team do them for our own health,” Adrian said. “It definitely pays off when we are in the game and we are not completely out of breath.”
Adrian also said he likes how everyone on the team has their own specialties, yet learns to come together as one team to win.
His mother said that Adrian’s skills have improved dramatically and his confidence has increased due to the positive feedback he gets from his teammates and coach. “He doesn’t feel pressured to perform at a particular level,” she said, reiterating the strong health component in the league.
There always needs to be a balance between serious basketball drills and just having fun as a team, Winters said, echoing his own life’s philosophy.
“Get rid of negativity. Have a sense of humor. One thing that the kids and the parents will tell you about me is that I joke around a lot,” he said. “Life is simple. Focus on the things that make you happy.”
The other coaches in the league are the same way, he said, making it a point to find coaches who are passionate for the game as well as the children. He said he hopes that one day the league will enjoy a visit from a local professional or university athlete.
League sign ups have started, and will continue until for several more weeks. The first practice was held on Monday, Oct. 8, and games begin Oct. 21 for the fall season, which lasts through Dec. 22. Cost for the season is $63, plus a $25 refundable deposit for a game jersey. For more information visit sandiegosharksbasketball.com or call 619-757-3399.