SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — In just one hour on one Thursday afternoon a week, Tony Passarella is confident he can get area kids excited about learning the game of basketball while simultaneously imparting some life lessons to go along with knowledge of proper dribbling, passing and shooting techniques.
With the established success of his Youth Basketball Instruction summer program, which kicked off its sixth year in a row at the Pacific Park Community Center and tenth overall on June 24, the veteran instructor may indeed be on to something.
"I love the game, but my thrust here is to make a difference in the lives of these kids," said Passarella, whose love for youth coaching goes back to raising his daughter Heidi, a standout girls' basketball player at Hoover High in the late 80s. "I get their attention with my skill in shooting baskets and I bring energy and enthusiasm and excitement, but my main purpose is to make a difference. I try to be a role model and influence and point them in a positive direction and reinforce what their parents are already telling them."
Passarella typically follows his hour-long tutorials featuring drills, shooting competitions and scrimmages with an extracurricular lesson on topics ranging from perseverance to teamwork to safety.
Members of the 4 p.m. 5-8-year-old class filled the Community Center's gym on Thursday afternoon for the second week of the 10-week session and, while commanding the concentration of over a dozen youngsters eager to bounce balls was at times was no small task in itself, Passarella's, patience, engaging personality and authoritative voice on the subject at hand soon won over the room.
Some of the students who showed up for the advanced session for 9-12-olds that begins at 5 p.m. were graduates of Passarella's introductory program from past years.
"I wasn't good [at basketball] when I first started," 12-year-old Kevin Abuhanna said. "[Passarella] is a good teacher. I want to keep getting better and learning about basketball."
Different students take different things from Pasarella's camp, such as seven-year old Jordan Lampano, who said he loves playing the games.
Seven-year old Dylan Kingdom said basketball is her favorite sport because it makes her feel confident.
"I like [the class] because it gives you a lot of tips and support in basketball," Kingdom said. "Everything is really good."