How the Ball Bounces: Kids Take the Court at the Water Tower

They might lack the grace, skill, and height of LeBron, but they more than make up for it in keen enthusiasm and infinite energy. 

And on this steamy Wednesday night at the Water Tower Recreation Center, one of the not yet very tall fourth and fifth graders playing half-court basketball gets lucky, successfully lofting a genuine buzzer beater, eliciting an excited roar of approval—and astonishment—from the parents sitting nearby, and probably securing bragging rights for a week. The word “swish” was invented for a moment like that.

“Did you get that, Mr. Camera Man?” one of the parents shouts in my direction. Answer: Sadly, no. The light was fading fast on this muggy night under the minimal shade of the trees. Everything I was shooting at that point was a blur—and, frankly, I didn’t expect the kid to make the shot, either. 

Up to that moment, the youthful participants were darting about in their brightly colored jerseys, like a swarm of faintly confused bees, occasionally hauling off and executing a basket. Really, to be fair, most of them are still learning the finer points of the game, under the tutelage of encouraging parents and patient, knowledgeable refs. I was just as surprised as everybody else by that magical Hail Mary. But congratulations, anyway. Congratulations to all those future NBA stars, in fact.

Welcome to the Chestnut Hill Youth Sports Club’s 3×3 Outdoor Summer Basketball League. The younger kids play first, followed by sixth and seventh grade students. This is the program’s first summer on the Water Tower’s open-air court. In each age group, two groups go at it in each half court, and then rotate throughout the night.

This night under the nets is intended to impart basic basketball skills, but it’s also an opportunity to have fun, for both kids and parents, Cadiann Cole, one of the league’s four commissioners, explains.

“Most of the kids played in the intramural season in the winter,” says Cole, who has been associated with the sports club for about 10 years. “This was just an opportunity to have fun. The kids get competitive. What sport are you not competitive in? And they get to play with their friends. So far, so good.”

Roughly 60 kids take part in the summer league, about evenly divided between the fourth and fifth graders and the sixth and seventh grade players. Over time, the club would like to expand the program, bringing in more kids and parents, turning it into something bigger and better. There’s also a desire to improve the court, which, frankly, has seen better days.

“We want to install new rims, paint the backboards, paint new lines on the court,” Cole says. “We’re trying to put ourselves out there. We want sports to be a safe haven, a place to grow. And as those kids get older, they can bring their own kids here.”

Basketball means more than just teaching young people how to play the game, she adds. For Cole, who played the game in high school and college, teaching kids how to basketball has its own rewards.

“I just like coaching basketball,” she says, “to see the kids mature as a person, to see their development. That’s the joy of it.”You can experience the joy for yourself. Check out the photographs.