By Dave Ricci
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — It’s a tradition deeply woven into the fabric of the Kenmore West Lady Blue Devils basketball program.
Today the Lady Blue Devils varsity team will make its annual visit to Hoover Elementary School on Sheridan Drive for an assembly that highlights National Women and Girls in Sports Day.
A tradition that has run for almost two decades, the Blue Devils message to the kids of Hoover is a simple one: get involved in sports.
Ken West coach Mike Licata opens the assembly with a heart to heart talk that highlights why involvement in sports is so vital to making you a well-rounded person. While the goal is to inspire all kids to find their place in athletics, Licata, because it’s Women and Girls in Sports Day, specifically drives home the message to the girls that sports isn’t just for boys anymore.
While the Blue Devils have visited many schools over the years, Hoover has been the most consistent destination.
“I think the key to that is Hoover,” Licata said. “When those kids experience that assembly as Kindergartners, first and second graders — they look forward to it every year. And they sort of get more into it. The basic assembly itself, we kind of do the same thing every year. But the energy those kids have in a gym to see high school kids up that close — that’s what keeps this thing running.”
Licata explains to the Hoover students that a background in sports can teach you skills such as team work, problem solving and responding under pressure. All skills that will help you succeed in the adult world. He also cites quotes from top flight business women who pointed to their involvement in sports as the foundation for their success.
But the assembly is far from all talk. There is plenty of action that never fails to leave every child in the gym buzzing for days.
The Lady Blue Devils storm onto the court for their warm up session that, with their background music blasting, instantly grabs the attention of every child.
The day includes a session where each player introduces herself and informs the Hoover students of what elementary school she attended. After a skills demonstration of passing and shooting, the Blue Devils hand-pick kids from the crowd, bring them on the court and show them how to play.
“I love it,” Senior co-captain Marylouise Lindner said. “The kids are just so cute and they get so excited when we come.”
Lindner, who has been on varsity for three seasons, said that this trip is one of the highlights of the year and something the players look forward to.
“It’s something different through the four months of the basketball season,” Lindner said. “It gets our spirits back up and we get excited about it.”