Nonprofit brings sports to Hill City

By Kacie Svoboda

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The new Hill City Youth Athletics (HCYA) organization will be providing a positive sports environment starting with a basketball program for area children, starting this December. This 501(c)(3) designated nonprofit organization is currently accepting kindergarten to fifth-grade students, with approximately 90 kids already registered. Though the program organizers were only expecting about 65 participants, they will allow children to register until two weeks into the season, which will start around Dec. 3.

“We’re not going to turn kids away,” said HCYA basketball coordinator Travis Eckert.

Currently, the organization is offering only basketball but plans to offer baseball and tee ball next, possibly in spring 2017.

“We’re just trying to kick off the basketball program and make sure it’s going good,” Eckert said.

If the basketball and baseball programs go smoothly, the HCYA would look to expand into other sports.

“The goal is to have a continuous, consistent sports program in Hill City at the elementary level,” explained Eckert. “We want our youth to have the opportunity to have a good sporting experience early in life.”

The basketball season will run from December through the end of January, with 9 boys and girls teams. Kindergarten and first-grade participants will be combined to form two teams, one for boys and another for girls. All other grades will have their own boys and girls teams, excepting the fourth and fifth-grade girls, who will be combined as they have fewer participants.

These children will be coached by 12 motivated parents and community members, some of whom have past experience coaching with Upward Sports of the Open Bible Christian Center in Rapid City.

HCYA basketball practices will be held in the Hill City Schools’ lunchroom or Gins gyms or at the Keystone Community Center. Games will be held in one of the Hill City Schools’ gymnasiums or at the competing team’s school. The number of games will vary between age groups.

Hill City Youth Athletics will focus on three major tenets: fundamental skills, sportsmanship and teamwork.

According to the program’s mission statement, “fundamentals” are considered vital to building strong future athletes and encouraging students to put forth their best effort in even the simplest of tasks.

The mission statement reads, “Fundamentals are the foundation upon which a structure is built. Without basic fundamental skills more advanced skills cannot be taught … Without a solid foundation the structure cannot stand.”

The HCYA also believes strong fundamentals will help progress the Hill City Schools’ Ranger sports program and the program hopes to instill a sense of pride in being a Ranger into the area children.

“We all think that’s very important,” said Eckert.

Sportsmanship is also a vital part of the HCYA program. The organization’s mission statement defines sportsmanship as “acting ethically and appropriately during a sporting event.” The HCYA views respect for others, both on and off the court, as an essential part of everyday life. The program intends to teach this principle through the actions of coaches and parents, who exemplify good sportsmanship and respect to everyone.

The HCYA also hopes to teach its children the value of teamwork.

The organization’s mission statement reads, “Working well with others is a skill that needs to be taught early in life. Teamwork creates good habits that our youth will use on every team they are a part of, whether it be a sports team, a school project or a career later in life.”

The HCYA considers teamwork as any “cooperative effort by a group of individuals” and hopes to use this tenet, along with a focus on fundamentals and sportsmanship to develop not only young athletes, but also cultivate individuals with “positive and productive” attitudes.

In the spirit of teamwork, Eckert acknowledges how much the HCYA owes to the contributions of the Hill City area, including a pending donation from Hill City Dental to cover the costs of the program’s 75 basketball jerseys.

“We just appreciate how much community we’ve had behind this program,” concluded Eckert. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

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