This east metro basketball program gives young athletes a chance to grow as players and individuals.
One new basketball league, Opportunity Basketball, is committed to developing better players, teammates and decision makers. Through a fun and supportive environment, boys and girls in grades 5–11 have the chance to progress their skills during the spring and summer seasons.
“We give the kids something that they can look forward to,” Jason Bennett, founder and Stillwater Area Schools traveling basketball coach, says. “Somewhere to go where they can feel supported, can compete in and feel comfortable in.”
Bennett created Opportunity Basketball after struggling to find a similar program for his daughter—one that would teach new skills, but also provide support and comfort. As a former basketball player himself, he worked to develop something that could showcase the dedicated kids of the region and give them the opportunity play.
What makes this program unique from others is the ability for players of surrounding cities to join. Including students from Woodbury, Stillwater, River Falls, Mendota, Mahtomedi, Chisago Lakes and Hudson, this program is centered on creating a strong community for growing athletes.
“It was really a gift for her to meet other players that she wouldn’t have otherwise,” Nicole Newfield, mother of player Brynna Newfield says. “I feel like it really made her a better player to learn how to play with a new group of girls. It is a different dynamic.”
Taking a holistic approach to teaching basketball fundamentals, Bennett says it’s special to see players self-esteem, confidence and determination grow throughout each season.
Competing against other Amateur Athletic Union teams, Opportunity Basketball has the luxury to customize their seasons and allow for individuals to partake in other outside activities. Practicing two-to-three times a week at Woodbury facilities and Stillwater High School, the teams focus their training on skill development, exposure to positions and team comradery rather than just winning their next matchup.
“It was a breath of fresh air when I got to meet people that really cared, had good attitudes and wanted to learn,” player Brooke Estochen says.
Bennett hopes to expand Opportunity Basketball beyond the east metro and eventually have a designated facility for the program. He also hopes to connect his players with others in the community through active volunteering,business partnerships and year-round training programs.