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Finding next generation of players

Kokomo’s ‘Little Dribblers’ program trains new stars

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MENTOR - Wildkats senior Chloe McClain instructs future Kokomo stars at the school's "Little Dribblers" camp, where players and coaches instruct the fundamentals of the game to the next generation. 

The history of basketball in Kokomo High School can’t be denied, from the banners hanging in Kokomo Memorial Gymnasium to the immortalized greats that have come through the program, but now the girls’ and boys’ basketball programs are finding the next generation of potential greats to wear the red, white and blue.

That’s the point of Kokomo’s “Little Dribblers” program, which runs over the summer teaching primary school students the basics of dribbling, shooting, passing, along with sportsmanship and pure love of the game. Both of the school’s basketball head coaches, John and Haley Peckinpaugh, led the charge in 2021, and Haley said building a feeder system for the programs is one of the most important things the school can do.

“We have combined the boys and girls, with kindergarten, first- and second-graders. In September we did once a week and then in October we’ve been doing twice a week. It’s an hour every time, and really we’ve just been working on getting them introduced to the game. I think that’s really important at that age to get them introduced to the game and just kind of love the game,” Haley Peckinpaugh said.

Kokomo has been struggling with the feeder program a bit in recent years, Peckinpaugh explained, so the future of the program is relying on getting kids involved early, getting them to fall in love with basketball and Kokomo’s unique and elite facilities.

There are always six or seven players helping from each team, leading drills and games among the young players that are mostly fun but also educational about the game.

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The turnout has been great, Peckinpaugh said, and it’s always heartwarming to see little ones enjoying basketball and being with each other.

“I think we had probably about 50 girls, kindergarten through second grade, that signed up, which is huge because that’s 50 girls that maybe wouldn’t have known basketball otherwise,” Peckinpaugh said. “And then once we start getting third-, fourth- and fifth-graders involved, I think we’ll see a huge spike in those numbers as well. The sooner they fall in love with the game and the earlier, I just think it just works out for everyone in the long run and can help your program reach the next level.”

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TEAM - Wildkats boys' head coach John Peckinpaugh leads the huddle during the "Little Dribblers" camp, which just wrapped up for 2021. Both the girls' and boys' programs combined to teach kids about the game of basketball. 

The players love it, she said, and get a lot out of it. The kids look up to them, and it’s a rewarding experience to be able to pass down their love of the game to a smiling face. Plus, the players want to preserve the history of the program and pass on the success for years to come.

The 2021 Little Dribblers program has come to an end, but Peckinpaugh said she expects the numbers to go up next year and hopes to see some returning faces at the camps and in practice as the years go on.