This past weekend, some 162 youth basketball coaches from across Central New York gave up their Saturday for a good cause.
The coaches not only got the opportunity to develop their coaching skills; they also helped out the American Cancer Society by taking part in a clinic hosted at Cicero-North Syracuse High School and organized by former C-NS basketball coach Henry Fengler.
Fengler started the clinic about three years ago, though he'd been involved with the American Cancer Society for a number of years prior to that.
"I started working with them after my son [Keith] died of cancer," Fengler said. "I had coached [basketball] at C-NS and the local Coaches vs. Cancer program director asked me to get a team together to play in a tournament at Le Moyne. So I did, and I got to know all of the people there, and after I retired, I went back to them and said I wanted to do something."
Working with Tom Tathum, C-NS' athletic director, and Brian Hayes of Coaches vs. Cancer, Fengler developed the clinic, which brings in volunteers, many of them big-name coaches, to work with youth coaches on various skills, from creating plays to building up a defense. This year's guests included Mike Hopkins, assistant coach for Syracuse University's men's team; Quentin Hillsman, the women's coach at SU; Dave Pasiak from Onondaga Community College; and Vance Walberg, an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts whose revolutionary offensive tactics were featured in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated.
Each year, more and more coaches take advantage of the opportunity. When the clinic started in 2006, 86 coaches attended; this year's total doubles that. The clinic this year raised about $6,000 -- not bad for an all-volunteer, no-budget event.
"It's incredible the people that are willing to donate their time for a good cause," Fengler said. "And every year, we hope it gets a little more visible so we can continue to raise awareness about cancer and what can be done for the American Cancer Society."