Z-League still teaches basics, fun
Monday night marked more than 20 years that Baldwin Junior High School coach Ted Zuzzio has started his annual Z-League basketball camp for Baldwin City children.
Z-League is a six-day basketball camp for fourth, fifth and sixth grade girls. Baldwin High School girls' basketball players and coaches help Zuzzio run the annual event.
"The first night was awesome," Zuzzio said. "The kids did everything we asked of them. They listened and they learned a lot. They appreciated the high school girls and all of the time and energy they spend in teaching them the correct fundamentals. It makes us happy to see them happy."
Zuzzio said the BHS players and coaches have made it possible for him to keep running the camp every year, but the campers make it special.
"I have been fortunate to have some really reliable coaches and high school kids that have really enjoyed doing it," Zuzzio said. "As long as the kids show great interest and appear to be happy, it's worth it. It's great to see them smile and make a basket. That's what it is all worth. It also gives them a step up on fundamentals and being successful."
BHS senior Ellie Meinen said she enjoys helping with the camp each year.
"It's a blast," Meinen said. "I love working with the little kids and coaching them. I really look forward to it every year. It's a pretty super thing to do after the season is over."
Fellow BHS senior Katelyn Miles agreed, saying she likes meeting new girls each year.
"It's a lot of fun," Miles said. "I used to know some of the girls, but this year I don't know hardly anybody. It's nice to meet new people, I guess. They are a lot of fun to work with."
Each session of Z-League runs for 90 minutes. Zuzzio said 62 girls signed up this year, which is about its yearly average.
"We had a little over 70 last year, but I think we have a small fourth grade this year," Zuzzio said. "We usually have anywhere from 60 to 70 girls."
On Monday and Tuesday, the girls learned the fundamentals of basketball. They rotated stations, learning different principles, including shooting form, dribbling, rebounding, passing and defensive stances, from the BHS players.
Zuzzio said fundamentals aren't the only thing they try to teach the campers.
"We are going to strive on sportsmanship, because we are all Baldwin and we represent Baldwin at the various levels," Zuzzio said. "The biggest thing we want them to learn is the basic fundamentals of the game."
Meinen also said the fundamentals are the main purpose of the camp.
"We just try to teach basic fundamentals, so they have something to build their game on when they are older," Meinen said.
On Thursday, the campers are broken into teams and will begin to play other teams. Zuzzio wants to ensure the players enjoy themselves, so no score is kept during games.
"We want them to have fun, so we don't keep score," Zuzzio said. "There are various competitions with various numbers of winners. As long as they are excited, then we are excited to be here."
Despite no score being kept, the BHS players make a competition amongst themselves. Two Bulldogs players coach each team, so the competition will heat up Thursday.
"We always get really competitive during the games, but the kids are just having fun," Miles said. "We tell them not to worry about the score, so they just have fun."
At this time, there is no such program for youth boys in Baldwin City.
Z-League will not run during spring break, but will begin playing March 27. On March 29 and April 1, the campers will be competing in the games, along with individual competitions in shooting and dribbling.
Each camper receives a t-shirt with its team name on the back for participating in Z-League. Zuzzio said he hopes the fundamentals learned in the six days will help the girls in later years.
"We definitely feel like we give them a step up by taking the time here to show them the correct fundamentals," Zuzzio said. "The ones that want to work harder in this particular sport will join play in summer leagues, at the playground or in their driveway. When they get to the junior high, they can make layups and they understand the game a little bit."
April 1 will the final day of Z-League this year, and awards will be handed out that day. Each session is held in the BJHS gym.