Junior Celtics Host Second Annual Kick-Off Event

BOSTON – The Jr. Celtics program, presented by New England Baptist Hospital (NEBH), conducted its first of three skills clinics at the Madison Park Recreation Center. Over 150 youth participants from Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) Blackstone, BCYF Jackson Mann, Doc Wayne Youth Services, Special Olympics Hockomock, Special Olympics Pulaski, YMCA Oak Square, YMCA Roxbury and YMCA Waltham took part in four Celtics-approved drills to improve in both basketball and leadership skills. Coaches from each site, as well as coaches from Coaches Across America led the drills, recording benchmark scores and ensuring each participant used proper technique.

The coaches, Celtics guard Phil Pressey, new City of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Celtics staff and volunteers led the clinic, which consisted of the following four drills: shooting, weave dribbling, defensive sliding and passing.

The shooting drill had the kids take two shots at five spots around the paint, where a made shot earned a specific number of points. The weave dribble drill was timed and focused on the participant’s ball-handling ability around five cones. The defensive slides drill was also timed and contained three vital defensive movements outside four cones in a square shape: sprint, shuffle and backpedal. The passing drill, which had its own points system, incorporated bounce and chest passes from four different spots towards a hula hoop that was attached to the wall.

Once parents, kids, families, and coaches entered the gym and settled down in the stands, Senior Manager of Community Relations Dave Hoffman took the microphone to kick off the event.

“Welcome to the first skills clinic of our Jr. Celtics program, presented by New England Baptist Hospital. Today, we are all having fun while getting better,” Hoffman said, reminding the crowd the main purpose of the Jr. Celtics program.

To pump up the crowd, Hoffman brought Celtics Mascot Lucky to center court to do his infamous back flip and trademark dunk show. The crowd went wild after seeing two acrobatic dunks by Lucky, whom Hoffman praised as being “the best athlete in the whole Celtics organization, players included!”

After a warming welcome from Interim Executive Director of Boston Centers for Youth and Families, Christopher Byner, another special guest was brought to the center floor: newly elected mayor Marty Walsh. The mayor spoke to the crowd about goals and perseverance.

“Always dream, whether you want to play in the NBA like Phil (Pressey), run for office and get elected like me, or do crazy acrobatic dunks like Lucky,” the mayor said. “It starts by staying in school, doing your best, never quitting, and always trying!”

Next to the floor was former City Councilor At-Large and current Chief of Health and Human Services, Felix Arroyo. As an overseer of BCYFs all across Boston, he knows the importance of this clinic, both on and off the court.

Arroyo explained, “It is wonderful to see all of these youth and families involved in this event today. Kids, the fun part will happen now, where you are playing basketball and staying in shape. However, please do realize the fun part is earned by doing the right things at home, where you will need to support and listen to your parents and focus on your homework.”

For the last speaker, Hoffman brought Pressey front and center to highlight how these drills, which are the same used by the Celtics players, can help kids become better leaders.

“In order to be the best, you need to practice all of the time,” Pressey stressed. “Everyday, I practice these drills to gain confidence in my abilities and perform well in games. You should also be able to translate that confidence and performance at home and at school. It’s great to be a better player, but it’s very important to also be a better student and person.

Before breaking out into stations, the crowd was treated to one last dunk by Lucky – a flip dunk over the new mayor! It was a Celtics’ welcome for the mayor that had everyone in the gym bursting into a big roar.

As the drills were running, Pressey went around each station to share his basketball knowledge, bringing smiles to every participant’s face. Having to do these same drills in practice everyday, the Celtics guard was able to provide expert tips in improving and succeeding in the drills.

Following the Jr. Celtics clinic, coaches will lead four weekly workout sessions and track their youths’ skill development on official Jr. Celtics score sheets, which data will be reported to the Celtics staff. Using a formula created by team statisticians, the top 10% of participants of each site who have improved the moment will be invited to a Celtics game as an “NEBH Jr. Celtics All-Star!”

After a few photos with Pressey, Lucky, and Mayor Walsh, the youth left Madison Park not only as better basketball players, but also better leaders!

Good luck improving your game in the next four weeks!

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