ZUNI, NM (Feb. 23, 2023) — Spring is just around the corner, and at the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project, that means it’s almost time for its most popular Youth Sport program to begin. Made possible with support from the Nike N7 Fund, New Mexico Department of Health, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Zuni Public School District, the 2023 ZYEP Basketball League is open to youth ages 7-12.
According to Josh Kudrna, ZYEP’s physical activity coordinator, the nonprofit youth organization is anticipating 200 Zuni children will compete in this year’s league, which runs from Mar. 20 to May 20.
“Our Shiwi Division for 7- to 9-year-olds is currently filled up, and we’re getting into the waitlist,” Kudrna said. “Our Zuni Division for the 10- to 12-year-olds still has a few openings. Our goal is to have 10 teams in the older division again this season.”
At press time, ZYEP was preparing for its annual coach training on Saturday, Feb. 25, in the Zuni High School gymnasium. The training will focus on reinforcing fundamental skills with children, as the league attracts a lot of new players.
“It also addresses general group management to make the practices as smooth as possible, expectations and policies for the season, and all the fun odds and ends to make the magic happen,” Kudrna explained.
That afternoon, ZYEP will host a skills session for the 10- to 12-year-old players. During this session, the players will have the opportunity to go through the sport’s foundational skills with the coaches who will work with them throughout the season.
“We’re hoping this helps get everyone excited and builds a sense of community for our league,” Kudrna said. “We’re coming together to do this for the kids’ benefit; it’s not about winning or losing.”
Next, on Wednesday, Mar. 8, ZYEP will host a Family Info Night. This will be an opportunity for staff, coaches, youth participants and their families to gather and set the tone for the season, share expectations, and review the season schedule. It also will provide an opportunity for the young players to meet their coaches.
When the season officially begins on Monday, Mar. 20, the Shiwi and Zuni divisions will practice twice a week at Shiwi Ts’ana Elementary School and Zuni Middle School, respectively, with game nights at Zuni High School on Fridays. The older players also will be able to participate in a final tournament on May 19-20.
“Since we don’t have tournaments for the younger players, their final week will be an All-Star Week, full of fun activities and basketball-related games so they can show off what they’ve learned,” Kudrna said. “Then the younger teams will end their season with a regular game on the final Friday night.”
Through its Youth Sport initiative, ZYEP connects with more than 500 youth annually. In addition to basketball, young people also are able to take advantage of seasonal leagues in soccer, flag football, and cross country. More importantly, they have access to mentorship through ZYEP’s staff and coaches, camaraderie with teammates throughout the leagues, and powerful community spirit.
To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), YouTube (/ZuniYouth), and TikTok (/zyep09)
Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.