Students learn basketball skills through spirited competition

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; The competition has nothing on basketball stars who can spider dribble.

In the spirit of the Harlem Globetrotters, 30 Miss-Lou children are learning the basics of basketball without the net.

Teams of Tomorrow, based in Vidalia, teaches kindergarten through sixth-grade students ball handling skills through a series of fun, challenging tricks.

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&8220;We don&8217;t play the game, we learn the skills and techniques,&8221; organizer Torri Webber said. &8220;They compete against themselves, and no one sits on the bench.&8221;

TOT in the Miss-Lou is in its third year and has students from schools in Vidalia and Natchez. The TOT curriculum is available nationally, and children learn the same skills across the country.

Webber started the program because of a family connection to a TOT program in West Monroe.

Students started in September with weekly practices. First they run through skills with no ball in hand. Eventually they add the balls, choreograph the program and go public to perform.

In past years TOT has performed at halftime of a Harlem Globetrotters game, but Hurricane Katrina changed those plans this year. Instead they performed at local schools.

&8220;It&8217;s a wholesome thing for kids to get involved with,&8221; Webber said. &8220;Being active encourages a healthy lifestyle. And this really helps kids that have self-esteem problems feel like they don&8217;t have to compete with anyone but themselves.&8221;

Tiny TOT is for the youngest children and teaches very basic skills. From there, children move up to basic and intermediate programs.

Andrew Couie, 9, said his favorite skill was the spider dribble &8212; walking across the room while dribbling the ball between your legs.

&8220;I like challenges,&8221; he said. &8220;It was hard at first. And after the show, I like the crowd going wild.&8221;

Couie&8217;s mother Cindy enrolled both of her children in TOT after they saw a performance last year.

&8220;We watched a performance and it was so impressive,&8221; she said. &8220;They begged and pleaded to do it.&8221;

And since Andrew started TOT, his performance in basketball games has improved dramatically, Cindy said.

Mom Tamala Davis said she&8217;s seen the same effect for her daughter Jayla, 9.

&8220;It builds confidence in handling the ball and their skills with the ball,&8221; she said.

Daniel Perrault, 8, has been in TOT for two years now and said it was hard to handle the ball at first.

&8220;You have to keep practicing and practicing,&8221; he said.

Registration for next year&8217;s TOT program will be in early August. The group practices at Vidalia Upper Elementary School on Wednesdays. Cost is $40 per month.