695HOOPS WHERE IT'S ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS
Central Maryland Attitude is one of the fastest growing programs in the area. CMA's president Ray Vernon spoke to 695Hoops about the program's origins, goals and challenges. Carroll County now has their own established program for girls.
695: Please tell me about your coaching background...
Coach: I’ve been coaching basketball now for 9 years. Like many coaches out there, I started a little reluctantly in the youngest levels of rec ball by coaching my son’s team with a friend. Coaching basketball then became a passion for me. I progressed to girls travel basketball with my oldest daughter’s team, and then was fortunate enough to become one of the founding members of the Attitude program 6 years ago. Now I have gone full circle and was back to coaching my youngest daughter’s 3rd grade Attitude team this year.
695: Tell me about the Central Maryland Attitude program...
Coach: The Attitude organization is the first Carroll County based girls’ AAU basketball club, fielding teams from ages 8-17. We’re a regional program attracting players from Carroll as well as surrounding counties and southern PA. The Attitude was founded by Bob Mahr 6 years ago and it consisted of just a handful of teams that initial season. In 2011 we have 10 teams from 3rd grade through 11th grade. Bob had the role of president for 4 years and was followed by Bill Saunders for the next 2 years. I am currently the president of the organization, and have served over the years as vice president, tournament coordinator, and board member. In an organization our size, each person involved in the program plays a key role in our success. Whether it’s an officer, board member, coach, or parent volunteer, we all take ownership of the Attitude program. We wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the dozens of Attitude families who contribute their valuable time to our program.
695: What challenges do you face with the program?
Coach: One of our better challenges is the rapid growth of the Attitude program. I believe the increasing popularity of girl’s basketball across the country has created more interest in players wanting to improve their game by playing at a higher level. We’ve seen the pool of players grow at our tryouts exponentially over the past few years. Younger girls are wanting to get started playing for the Attitude these last couple of seasons. I think we were one of only a few organizations in the area with a 3rd grade and two 4th grade teams in 2011. Continually feeding the system with younger players means developing not only the players, but new coaches who may not have a history in aau basketball. Luckily the Attitude program is blessed with many experienced coaches who are quick to act as mentors to our newer coaches.
695: What do you think of MD Girls AAU overall?
Coach: The top MD AAU programs look to still be strong and playing high level basketball and continue to compete at a national level. We’ve only had a handful of our teams play in districts over the past few years. So I don’t have any input on that event, other than I was a little surprised to see that the MD District didn’t have a 4th grade bracket this year. Our top 4th grade team coached by Joe McAleer ended competing in YBOA and finishing 2nd at nationals in Orlando. I think you will see more Attitude teams competing in MD Districts in the years to come.
695: What do you think about the overall direction of girls basketball in the area?
Coach: Girl’s basketball in MD is reflecting the increased popularity of the sport nationally. We’re seeing more and more AAU programs and teams all the time. Some coaches may feel the talent pool is being thinned by the increase of teams, but it gives more girls with a desire to play at a higher level the chance to work on their game and compete against other AAU teams. Unfortunately girl’s basketball is growing faster than the athletic facilities needed to keep up with the growth. I think the Ravens have done a great job in Columbia with growing their program and partnering with the YMCA to always have access to their facility in Ellicott City. The need for our own basketball facility is a regular conversation of the board members of the Attitude.
695: How do your teams decide which tournaments they will play in?
Coach: Each head coach will determine the goals and needs of his or her team and schedule their tournaments accordingly. There are some tournaments in the area that we try to enter as many teams as possible. One reason is because of the quality of the tournament…..from the way it is run to the programs that participate in it. The other is to pull together the Attitude families for a weekend and support each other’s teams during the games. All of the coaches in the Attitude communicate with each other regarding recommended tournaments to play in and those to avoid.
695: What are your future goals for the program?
Coach: Our goals have been the same from our first season:
Outside of these goals, we can add our desire to create a basketball facility in Carroll or western Baltimore County.
695: Do you think the number of clubs in the area helps or hurts the game?
Coach: The increasing number of clubs in the area is a direct reflection on the popularity of the sport. It also publicizes the need for more county funded facilities accessible to the clubs. So I see that as helping the game. Some coaches feel the most talented players are spread out, and teams aren’t as strong as they could be. That’s a valid concern for some, but the highest level players will seek out the team that best suits their long term goals. The formation of the Attitude program was partly due to Bob Mahr tiring of the twice a week commute from Carroll County to Leadership Thru Athletics for Sure Shots practices for one of his daughters. In this economy of dual income families with multiple sports teams during the AAU season, it may be more practical for most players to stay closer to home. The Attitude started small six years ago, but now has over 120 players. In my mind, this helps the game.
695: What do you do besides run the program?
Coach: I’m responsible for coordinating the tournaments we host. Lately we have been holding a tournament every March at McDaniel College. They have an incredible athletic facility on a beautiful campus in Westminster. As I said before, I am coaching my youngest daughter now. We had a 3rd grade team this season which I found is pretty rare in the area. The picture I included for this shows me during a game with the girls. It surprises me to see how small they are in the picture, and how different that is from coaching high school players. It’s unbelievably rewarding to go back and begin coaching at that level again. Our team spent a lot of time playing teams like the Matrix, Classics, and Flames in the Potomac Valley Region, because there really weren’t any 3rd grade AAU teams in the MD District that I knew about. Hopefully we will find a lot of 4th grade teams in the MD District to play in 2012.
695: Is there anything you would like to tell us about in closing?
Coach: Actually I would like to comment on the origin of our name. As we grow and compete more regionally and nationally, a lot of people see the Attitude logo and our basic black & white color scheme and ask about us. The Attitude name came to Bob Mahr when he was planning out the start of our organization. Prior to our start, the Westminster community tragically lost a high school athlete named Bethany Green. Bethany was a multi-sport athlete at Westminster High School who lost her life in a car accident in her junior year. Bethany wasn’t the biggest player on the court, but was the most positive and motivated teammate a player or coach could ask for. So much so, that her high school teammates nicknamed her “Attitude”. Her nickname sparked the idea for the philosophy behind our program, which is grounded in character development, sportsmanship, education, and becoming role models. Developing the skills of the basketball player is a significant responsibility of the Attitude coaches and parents, but it’s not our most important responsibility to the players. We believe that you either have a positive attitude or a negative attitude. It’s either black or white, there is no gray area, and your attitude is the choice of the individual.
695: Thanks for your time.
Coach: Thank you very much for the opportunity to be a part of the 695HOOPS Coaches Round Table.
CMA's 4th grade team
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