Orlich bounces back with new youth program
When Tom Orlich reluctantly left his position at South Tahoe High 13 months ago, the 25-year prep coach excitedly talked about taking a year off to start an all-encompassing youth basketball program.
After STHS refused to grant Orlich a one-year leave in 2000-01, community members wondered what happened to the proposed youth basketball league.
Wonder no more.
Orlich, with the support of the city of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation Department, is forming an instructional youth basketball league for first- through eighth-grade boys and girls.
Plans are to start the league in January, but, first, an organizational meeting set for 6 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Recreation Center is needed to get the balls bouncing.
“I’m excited that our kids will get excited about basketball and have the opportunity to play basketball just like all the other areas are doing,” Orlich said. “I’m hoping to have 500 to 800 kids involved in this program. We want to have as many kids involved as possible, and we’re not going to turn anyone away.
“I’ll have a vested interest as well. I’ll have four children in the program.”
Orlich and John Collins of the recreation department are looking for coaches and anyone willing to volunteer their time for the betterment of the league. The league is also seeking financial assistance.
“My biggest concern right now is that I’m trying to get some people in the community willing to get this project off the ground,” Orlich said. “You don’t have to be knowledgeable. All you have to have is a caring for the kids and I think we can be very successful.”
Orlich was never far from the game during his year “off.” He kept the ambers burning by teaching the game to youngsters during his summer camps in June and July at STHS and attending clinics regionally.
“I’ve done a lot of research, visiting other areas with successful programs,” Orlich said. “We’re trying to take the best of those ideas and implement them here.”
For years, playing organized basketball hasn’t been basketball for some of the youngest members of the community. While AYSO, Little League and Pop Warner have introduced their games to children as young as 5, basketball usually hasn’t been offered as a team sport until a child reaches the fourth grade.
“They’re not as skilled when they get into the junior high level as they could be if they started at lower levels,” Orlich said.
The upper end of the league – seventh- and eighth-graders – gives players cut from middle school teams the option of pursuing the game. Middle school coaches generally have to cut 75 percent of the players who try out, retaining a core of 12-15 players.
“A lot of kids have fallen through the cracks. This will give those kids another league to play in,” Collins said.
One Viking who almost fell through the cracks was Brian Bruso, a center on the Vikings’ 1991-92 state championship team who went on to star for the University of San Diego and play professionally in Korea. He was initially cut in middle school, only to be instated on the team later that season. Cory Calder, Orlich’s first league MVP in 1980-81, also was cut in middle school.
“Sometimes kids don’t realize their potential until their junior and senior years of high school,” Orlich said.
Player sign-ups are set for 6-8 p.m. Nov. 6-7 at the Recreation Center. The $30 registration fee will include a reversible mesh jersey for games and a personal basketball. Games will be played on Saturdays at STHS starting in January and continuing into March. Children will play against their own grade level, with games preceded by a 20-minute clinic.
To volunteer for the program, phone Orlich at (530) 541-4111 or Collins at (530) 542-6091.
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“Let Them Play,” rallies are taking place across California with a mission to bring back high school and youth sports.