Jonathan Young is only 30 years old, and yet he’s accomplished so much, all in the name of providing a fun basketball experience for the community’s youth.
Young started the Foothill Hoops Basketball League in 2003. He took his experience from being a referee and coach at places like the Crescenta-Cañada Y and John Wooden Camps and applied it to this endeavor.
“In this area, there’s really a high demand for athletics,” Young said.
Because of that demand, Foothill Hoops has grown steadily. In 2004 it added a boys’ travel team. A girls’ travel team was added in 2006, as well as a summer camp. Presently, there are also teams for kids 3 to 5 years old. The league itself is open for kids 3 to 15 years of age.
“We’re a very kids-centered program,” said Young, a CV graduate who spent most of time in high school hanging out in the drama department with teacher Brent Beerman (Young is also a part-time actor, and when he’s not available his brother Paul runs the show).
Making it fun for the youngest players is key, and that includes doing creative stretching.
“We have them open their legs and form a giant slice of pizza, and roll out the dough and sprinkle the cheese,” he said. “And the basketball games are very kid-friendly. We have lots of colorful equipment and low baskets.
“After a few weeks they’re passing and shooting and dribbling and running back and forth.”
Former Foothill Hoops coach Brock Hendricks said the environment is what makes it a desirable place.
“Kids can come in with no basketball experience whatsoever and pick up the game in the matter of one season,” he said. “Then you also have kids who are already at such a level of skill and competitiveness in their basketball careers, who can come in and fit in perfectly.”
One of the coaches of the youngest age group is Crystal Lepe, whose career goal is to become a nurse. She also works two other jobs aside from Foothill Hoops. But Lepe enjoys the atmosphere at Foothill so much she works her schedule around the coaching job.
“They’re like sponges,” she said of the kids. “They soak up everything. They’re so excited to learn about the sport.”
Lepe was a former player in the league, then a volunteer before becoming a coach. She said the kids’ enthusiasm is what makes it a special job.
“I feed off of their hyper-energy. I have a great staff that makes sure the kids are having fun and learning at the same time,” she said.
The staff is comprised of people with various backgrounds. Tim Brown is a coach at Caltech, and has experience coaching at the high school level as well. Cris Boiles is a CV High grad who was an assistant varsity coach for the Lady Falcons. There’s also Cassie Pappas, a 2010 CV grad who was All-Area player of the year that season.
Hendricks said the league wasn’t all about the coaches teaching kids, but also for the coaches to learn as well.
“I made plenty of mistakes at Hoops, being my first job and all, but I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive duo of bosses,” Hendricks said of Jonathan and Paul. “Every mistake I made they were able to tell me what I did wrong and how to fix it. Instead of telling me what I did wrong, they taught me how to overcome and never make that same mistake again.”
The league is sort of scattered. Games and camps take place in the FIS gym in La Cañada, Rosemont Middle School and Muir High School in Pasadena (Muir doesn’t charge the league to use its two gyms as much as Glendale area schools would).
The players come from all over, though.
“We have kids that come from Pasadena and L.A., and Tujunga,” Young said. “Most of our kids are from La Crescenta, La Cañada, and Glendale.”
Foothill Hoops is also looking to expand east and west. Young said he wants to potentially have gyms in the Tujunga area and San Marino. If that’s Young’s goal, he just might make it work considering all he’s done so far.
“He has such an encouraging and uplifting attitude,” Hendricks said. “He’s such a supportive boss, and it really rubs off on everyone he meets.”
“He’s very positive, and he’s a created a foundation of what he envisioned for these young kids.” Lepe said.
For more information, visit www.foothillhoops.org.