Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Southwest Region Doesn’t Miss

By Communications Specialist Kristen Scaletta

Today, our office is busy with last minute preparations for the Hoop Shoot National Finals, which take place this Saturday in Springfield, Mass. I’m looking forward to leaving for my third National Hoop Shoot competition tomorrow morning. This year, I’m anticipating the contest even more, since I had the privilege to attend the Southwest Regional Hoop Shoot contest last month, so I already know some of the finalists.

Thanks to Regional Director Jud Good and his wife Deb, Development Manager Kate Keating Edsey and I were able to travel to Dallas, Texas, to experience the regional contest in person.

From the moment we arrived at the hotel for registration, we knew the contest would be big. When we pulled up, flags representing each state in the region greeted us at the doorway. Upon entering, we saw a table lined with trophies that were taller than most of the contestants. All of the Elks on Jud’s Hoop Shoot team gave us a warm welcome, and we immediately felt like we were part of the team.

Friday night, we attended the Hoop Shoot social, where we got to meet each of the contestants, enjoy a homemade meal, and witness the shooting order selection.

In case you’ve never been to a Hoop Shoot, it’s a free throw contest for kids ages 8 to 13. Contestants in each division line up to try to make the most out of 25 free throws. So as you can imagine, shooting order is a big deal. Different regional finalists have different preferences. Some like to go first to get it over with, and not have the pressure of watching everyone else shoot. Some prefer last, so they know how many shots they need to make.

At the Southwest Regional contest, to determine the shooting order, contestants in each division came to the stage separately, and stood on top of a number, which was randomly placed face down, so they couldn’t see. They traded spots until they were happy with the number they stood on. Then, on the count of three, they all picked up their signs and saw their shooting position. When they showed family and friends in the audience, everyone cheered. What a fun way to kickoff the contest!

The good energy of the social carried right into the actual contest. A local high school drum line played during warm ups at the gym, and each contestant was recognized as he or she ran through the drum line to begin the contest. The gym fell silent when the shooting started. I’m consistently amazed at how much these contestants practice, and how infrequently they miss. It’s also fun to watch each contestant’s technique. After the contest, I felt I saw every approach, from dribbling twice, spinning the ball and shooting, to never letting the ball hit the floor. It’s also great to see all of the good sportsmanship the contestants show. They really bond during the contest, and cheer for one another just as much as they’re rooting for themselves.

After the last shoot-out ended, the contestants took the last bus back to the hotel. When they got off, they ran through a line of family and friends cheering for them and wishing them well.

Even though there were no more free throws, the fun wasn’t over. That evening, there was a wonderful banquet where each contestant was recognized and received an award. The nervous energy from that morning turned into pure excitement, as contestants celebrated their victories, spent more time with one another, and learned more about the Elks and other Elks programs, such as the Drug Awareness Program. After eating their fill of chicken fingers and pledging to say no to drugs, the evening ended with a raffle, where contestants won even more prizes.

Overall, Kate and I had a fantastic time in Dallas. Big thanks to Jud, Deb and the Southwest Regional Hoop Shoot Team for your Texas hospitality!

The Hoop Shoot National Finals are in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday, April 30. If you can’t make it to the finals, you can follow the action from home using our online shot tracker. Visit www.elks.org/hoopshoot for regional results and other Hoop Shoot stories.

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