Andy Collins and Mark Zaino are consummate gym rats. If the school gym is open, they are there shooting hoops with their kids or refereeing or coaching basketball.
They are hoop junkies who are determined to keep growing the game in Vernon.
“Mark and I started the Vernon Minor Basketball Association (VMBA) last spring with a mission to grow our basketball community in its entirety from top to bottom,” said Collins, a realtor and owner of Marble Slab Creamery. ” We started small with a three-on-three league at Seaton high school and have grown to over 400 members from kindergarten to Grade 10 in just a short time.”
Collins said he and Zaino simply have a passion to give back to a sport which gave them so much.
“I have been around the basketball community in Vernon for 17 years and although there are still some good high schools running programs, the overall competitiveness of our leagues in town has been on the decline,” said Collins.
“We now run Steve Nash League late September to the end of November, the Spring 3-on-3 Bulldogs Club Basketball and are looking to expand into a summer camp and possibly a skills academy. Our goal is to give as many kids in the North Okanagan a chance to play basketball at any level they wish. If you wanna play recreationally we have that, if you wanna take the game to the next level we can do that too.”
Collins and Zaino have a huge mandate to give back to the sports community and believe that a generation of strong coaches/teachers retiring has hurt the competitiveness of several high school teams.
“With more and more sports moving to community-based (programs), we want to make sure we have a community to step up,” said Collins. “We are always looking for refs and coaches and even administration help.”
The Steve Nash program starts Monday, Sept. 24 and runs until Nov. 30. Kids in kindergarten through Grade 3 will learn basic fundamentals and play fun games one night a week. Players from Grades 4-9 will get one practice and one full game a week. Registration is open now. The league has a Facebook page under Vernon Minor Baseball for full information and costs.