Beyond the Playbook: Salvation Army’s Rookie Basketball Association teams up with UMD basketball
Both the UMD men’s and women’s basketball teams are in the thick of their schedules, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make time for some potential future Bulldogs.
“This is the one event where we get to see the most kids in our program at once,” said Kris Mallett, the Salvation Army Rookie Basketball Associations Director. “To see the kids all running across the gym, knowing that not only are these kids getting impacted by UMD, but these kids are going to have the opportunity to have their lives changed through basketball.”
A year ago, over 200 youth basketball players from the Salvation Army’s Rookie Basketball Association showed up to practice with the UMD men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Fast forward a year later, and over 400 youth athletes from the RBA flooded Romano Gymnasium, all to practice with the Bulldogs.
With over 75 volunteer coaches and plenty of current UMD basketball players, the home of the Bulldogs was full of basketballs being dribbled, but even more smiles, thanks to the two programs involved.
“The character of these teams, the development of the programs that Mandy [Pearson] and Justin [Wieck} have put in place, make it exciting to be around their players,” added Mallett. “It’s not just about the ball going on the hoop.”
The Rookie Basketball Association has had its fair share of athletes grow up and become high school or collegiate athletes, including two of UMD’s current players, Noah Paulson and Mattie Thompson.
“Just being able to play basketball at UMD, seeing all these kids come in and being able to work with them, it brings me back to my RBA days and just being grateful that the RBA program is growing every day,” said Thompson, a sophomore forward.
As the former Duluth East boy’s basketball captain knows, while the basketball on the court is important, at this age, it’s just about the memories.
“I guess, at their age, basketball is about starting to build those life skills as you get older. So being here, being able to be a role model for them, being able to come in and that’s the most rewarding,” said Thompson.
“Showing up on time, playing hard, seeing good positive work, encouraging your teammates, being kind, having sportsmanship, building trust so that you can be successful…knowing that a win is not always the numbers on the clock. Sometimes a win is where we came out, we played as hard as we could, we had good effort, we had a good attitude and we didn’t quit,” said Mallett.