[Photo by Thomas Kika]
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Mike Laudicina, basketball league coordinator at the Saratoga YMCA, originally started the league in 1991 for kids who did not make the JV or Varsity teams at their school, so they would still have a chance to play basketball.
“We found that there were so many young people who were good enough to play on those teams but they can only have so many there. So we started with six teams and ended up when I originally retired in 2009, 24 teams in the league,” said Laudicina.
Laudicina retired in 2009 and then decided to come back in a smaller capacity in 2015.
“I had this passion for basketball and if somebody else comes in and doesn’t have that same passion, sometimes it’s not the same thing on that front burner. So they called me up in 2015 to come back because I had retired. I came back and there were only four teams, 26 boys,” Laudicina explained.
The fall basketball league is co-ed, just how Laudicina prefers it. He is a father of boys and girls and has always demanded that his league be for boys and girls.
“I don’t like leaving out girls because sometimes they’re better than the boys. Especially in the younger years, because physically they’re about the same,” Laudicina said.
This year’s league will have 12 teams and approximately 15 girls playing. When Laudicina came back after retirement there were four teams and this year they are shooting for 12, six in the junior division and six in the varsity division. The junior division is for grades five through eight and the varsity division is for grades nine through 12.
“The league gets kids in here from all over; it’s not just Saratoga, it’s Ballston Spa, Mechanicville, Corinth. The whole area, because there really is nothing for these kids to do so it keeps them out of trouble. They have one practice a week for an hour and then our games are on Sunday mornings, around 10:30 a.m. and goes until all the games are done,” Laudicina explained the league.
There are two coaches per team and nine scheduled games and at least one playoff game as each team makes the playoffs. If your team succeeds in the playoffs, there will be 12 games total.
“The great part about this, is that so many of the coaches played in the league. They want to give back, it’s all volunteers. It’s great to see them come back and say, ‘you know what, it was great for me and I want to make it great for somebody else,” Laudicina said.
Registration fees are $74 for YMCA members and $125 for non-members.
“We have sponsorship money for everything at the Y. Anyone can be sponsored and get scholarships,” Laudicina clarified.
If interested kids come in and they don’t have an active home life and they want to play but they can’t afford to or don’t have the parental involvement to, Laudicina will help them fill out paperwork and get sponsored so that they can still play.
“Some people see the price and they say ‘jeez, that’s a lot’ and they can’t afford to bring their kids in, but there are scholarships that can help!” Laudicina said encouragingly.
Last year the league had around 63 players and 10 of them were fully sponsored. The Over-50 Basketball League had a player pass away and in his honor, they made a collection and they donated it to the younger kids for sponsorships. So that is used to help.
Registration begins Sept. 18 and runs through Nov. 19 with games beginning Dec. 3.
“On November 19, we have something we call Skills Assessment. It’s not a tryout because a tryout means you might not make it. Everybody makes the team; we just want them to be evenly matched. Last year, we had eight teams and in both divisions, there were no teams who didn’t win two or three games and nobody who won every game. Everybody gets to play in the league; everybody has to sit down too. So if you have a star player, they can’t play the whole game,” Laudicina said.
Laudicina has already seen success since he has restarted at the YMCA with his summer league program.
“I couldn’t believe it, up until the day we started people were trying to get in. Once we ordered shirts and everything, there was nowhere to go. So we had a few I couldn’t get in,” he said.
First and second place winners of the fall league receive trophies at the yearly banquet put on by the Elks Club on Maple Ave. The Elks Club also sponsors a team. There is also a James Cudney Award which is for a senior in high school who demonstrates what it means to be a wonderful teammate, student, and volunteer.
“When the league started, I was the youth director here. Kids used to come up to my office and say to me, ‘I saw the paper!’ And I would say, ‘yeah I know! You scored however many points.’ I knew everybody’s name, and I knew what he or she did and it made them feel important. That’s the other thing, to make these kids feel important,” Laudicina wrapped up.
Registration begins Sept. 18, visit www.srymca.org for more information.