Learning how to score points with kids

Program uses basketball to help adults get involved with children's education

At Play

September 27, 2006|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Rhonda Pindell-Charles of the Anne Arundel County Public Schools was trying to come up with a program that would help parents in the Annapolis area when she settled on a simple idea: combining sports and education.

Pindell-Charles is a driving force behind "FamilyHood Scores!," a program that county schools developed in partnership with 14 county and city organizations and with businesses to help parents get more involved in their children's education while also playing basketball.

The program, which serves the Annapolis area, takes place on Thursday nights. It started last week, and will run through the end of April.

Twelve basketball teams were formed for fathers, primary caretakers or other men who are making a difference in some child's life. They come to play basketball at Annapolis High School and Wiley H. Bates Middle School and get a little education off the court also.

Teams play a game and then attend a session on subjects such as parenting and helping children become better students. This is the program's first year, and Pindell-Charles is hopeful that participants can have fun and learn some information that will help the children.

"I was trying to find some commonality ... and what better commonality than sports," said Pindell-Charles, the school-community liaison specialist for the school system. "Sports crosses all ethnic, racial, gender and age lines. It's universal, and I wanted to find something universal, and then couple that with learning."

The program will have about 140 participants this year, with eight teams playing each week and four teams getting a bye. For the first session, 162 people showed up.

Archie Trader, one of the referees and the recreation manager at the Stanton Community Center, thinks the marriage of sports and education in this setting is a good idea.

"Getting those entities together is not unique, but what is unique is how they're doing it, and the fact that the parents are really the target," Trader said. "I think that's rather unique."

Trader said he enjoyed watching parents playing basketball with their friends and forgetting about work for a while as their children cheered them on. Other adults were there volunteering and having a good time.

Those who play go to the educational sessions, about 45 minutes, either before or after their games. Trader said those programs provide the time to give a good message to the adults.

"This is all lecture and information, and I think that's the catch right there," Trader said. "They have a captive audience at the games, and they have an opportunity to present the various topics, workshops and educational topics."

Trader also said just having children see the parents or those meaningful in their lives out on the basketball court could be a positive thing.

"There's a lot of cognitive benefits and a lot of social benefits that people take for granted, but there are [things that] are actually developed at a young age," Trader said. "The parents are actually setting an example right in front of their face."

The children also can see how the parents learn things about life. Last week, a BGE representative came out to speak on the subject of "Baby, It's Cold In Here," talking about how to work on saving money on your monthly energy bill.

That, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with basketball. But BGE spokesman Robert L. Gould said the company is glad to send out such speakers.

"Obviously, as a consumer of energy we can't control the price of energy, but what we can control is our consumption of electricity," Gould said. "And any time we can have an opportunity to share with our customers what they can do to control their energy costs, it's worth the investment."

Pindell-Charles said speakers would come from Annapolis and county agencies, and would discuss a range of subjects.

There are a large number of issues about education, including attendance, how to make good choices, the right way to set reachable goals, all of which helps adults help the kids.

"We tried to find topics that would be of interest to everybody," Pindell-Charles said.

The program will move to the new Bates Heritage Park Complex from November through January before shifting back to the original sites after that.

It will end with an awards ceremony/banquet/dinner dance for the adults and, organizers hope, continue in the next school year.

"We're just trying to engage people even more in the children's education and develop even healthier relationships between the parents and the school staff and the children," Pindell-Charles said. "We're always trying to teach somebody something."

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