FULTON — The Fulton boys and girls basketball programs have joined forces with AmeriCorps, the City of Fulton, and the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau to offer a no-cost, safety compliant, socially distant, and fun youth basketball fitness and fundamental development program at the War Memorial and Community Center.

The program began in early August and is expected to run through the end of the calendar year.

With school back in session, the program has switched gears from daytime summer hours to after-school hours. The program is overseen by Sean Broderick, Fulton varsity boys basketball coach and an AmeriCorps volunteer. Six varsity basketball players serve as primary facilitators. They are Jack Broderick, Marcus Shepard, Alena Wright, Devon Nicholson, Lexi Patterson, and Dominic Abbott. The program has been able to welcome more than 130 participants in nearly two months of operation.

Broderick and the student-athletes expressed their appreciation to the community for supporting the program. They are especially grateful for the efforts of family and friends of program participants to comply with the safety regulations in place.

A lot of work took place behind the scenes in July for the program to be cleared for takeoff. Broderick’s student-athlete staff had to become certified AmeriCorps members. Once that process was completed, Broderick began working with the City of Fulton to develop an operating plan that met city, county, and state pandemic-related safety guidelines. In order for AmeriCorps and the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau to allow the program to function as intended, Broderick and his staff needed to be confident practicing the compliance plan that they would establish for participants once program began. They also needed to be comfortable working around participants who were not required to wear masks.

According to Devon Nicholson, a senior on the Fulton girls basketball team, helping some of the program’s younger participants adjust to the safety guidelines presented some initial difficulty, but overall, she’s pleased with how compliant the participants have been. “Some kids are older, and they get it, but some kids are also younger so it’s a little hard for them to understand,” Nicholson said. “Having those guidelines in place and having (program participants) follow them was a little bit of a challenge at first but everyone’s done pretty well.”

Despite some challenges facilitating certain physical activities while wearing their masks, Broderick praised the commitment and perseverance that his student-athletes have shown. “They wear their masks every day,” Broderick said. “That is hard to do especially when you’re in a gym, moving around and active with the kids. You’re sweating and (gasping), and you have to wear the mask, but they’ve been great about their compliance (with all safety guidelines).”

Broderick said the program aims to offer a safe, fun, informative, and socially inclusive outlet for participants of all ages. Participants will have an opportunity to develop their basketball skills and physical conditioning with age-appropriate activities while using equipment that is routinely sanitized.

Although basketball is a key feature of the program, Broderick said he hopes participants learn skills that will benefit them outside of sports.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic offers the program an opportunity to teach, develop, and demonstrate the ability to adapt and be flexible amid changing social conditions and expectations. Broderick said the effort and leadership of his student-athlete facilitators will allow participants to learn more about personal and social accountability. Participants are being taught that the safety guidelines they are expected to follow in the program are similar to what is expected of them in the community. They also understand that, like in the community, if someone doesn’t adhere to the safety guidelines in place, social opportunities for many may now be at risk, including this program.

Broderick said the student-athletes lead by example. They know that they must work together for the program to succeed and Broderick believes that program participants can learn from the teamwork and consistency they demonstrate.

“AmeriCorps does a great job of making sure their members are the right people in the community and I think we’ve hit an absolute home run with the six kids we have in place,” Broderick said.

He said he is impressed with the direction the student-athletes have brought to the program. Broderick said it was they who asked the required related COVID-19 questions and took the temperatures of participants upon every arrival. They were prepared to facilitate planned safety-compliant and age-appropriate physical conditioning and skills development drills. They also had the awareness to identify when adjustments were needed and did so accordingly.

These student-athletes took on this leadership role because they believed they could come through for their community during a challenging time. Broderick said their efforts to invest in the future of each program participant will have long-lasting benefits.

“They may not even realize this now, but I think it’s great the experience these members are getting from AmeriCorps and how valuable it is,” he said. “(If) they’re away at college (or in the workforce), when they’re faced with some adversity, they’re going to be able to draw on this experience.”

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