Royal Palm Beach’s travel basketball league gave an update to the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Advisory Board on Monday, explaining that they have tried unsuccessfully to get enough venues to hold a local tournament.
Dale Savon Smith, the founder of Savon’s Academy, the village’s travel basketball provider, said the league needs three gyms in order to conduct local tournaments, which commonly attract 80 to 120 teams, but it has access to only two, Crestwood Middle School and the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center.
Trishanna Gifford, president of the league, said the program currently serves boys and girls ages 7 through 17, who abide by the motto, “Developing leaders on and off the court.” The three board members making the presentation were accompanied by three participating players.
“We are the travel basketball provider for the Village of Royal Palm Beach, but we focus a lot more on the total development of the individual player, as opposed to just basketball skills,” Gifford said, adding that thousands of children have gone through the program since it formed in 2009.
About 78 percent of the participants live in Royal Palm Beach.
“Our financials have been increasing significantly over the years,” she said, explaining that the cash flow for 2016 was about $27,000, and for 2017 so far, through fundraising efforts, they are at about $40,000.
“It’s a great improvement, and I attribute that to the total development of the organization,” Gifford said, explaining that in 2016, they started their Shoot program, which gives participants higher organizational training.
“We encourage our students to come to our board meetings, and we even have participants who shadow board members to learn about the organization from the inside out,” she said. “These children are actually learning how to run an organization and how to put together volunteer community service projects. Because of that enthusiasm and momentum that has grown out of that program, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people who have actually started with our program.”
The league has four teams of about 15 players each, and offers a fall through winter training season that draws almost 80 participants. The league also offers individualized coaching and academic tutoring.
Smith said he has always wanted to educate the kids, and that is how the academy’s Shoot program came to be. He is proud that several former players are now on the board.
“Development on and off the court is really important to me,” he said. “We want to see these kids go on and do great things, possibly own a company one day. Everyone cannot make it to the NBA, so that was my reason for creating the Shoot program.”
Gifford said the growth of the league has created a need for more indoor practice time.
“We want to fit in two more teams,” she said. “Currently, we have combo teams in grades 7 and 8 and grades 10 and 11, so we’re pairing them up, and it would be really nice to have some more space so each team can individually practice when it comes to tournament preparation.”
Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio said he works with the league the best he can, but he cannot shut the gym down to accommodate the travel program.
“We do give them as much time as we possibly can,” Recchio said.
Smith said they would love to host a tournament to bring teams into the village, as a switch from traveling to tournaments.
“We really haven’t been able to use Royal Palm Beach High School due to the fact that there are some other travel teams in the area, and the high school coach told me that because of that, he doesn’t want to single-handedly give us the gym,” he said.
However, he is hopeful that enough venues will be found to host a local tournament.
Recchio said that there has long been discussion of adding another gym at the recreation center at some point.
“We’ve talked about this,” he said. “I’m sure it will come up in strategic planning, because we are outgrowing the facility. That facility hasn’t been touched in almost 30 years. It’s always a possibility, but I don’t know if it’ll happen while I’m here.”
Board Member Shenoy Raghuraj said money might become available through the village’s share of the one-cent surtax enacted recently by county voters.
Councilwoman Selena Smith, liaison to the board, said there is a strategic planning session coming up April 10 through 12.
“That is one of the things that we put in our strategic plan from last year that we didn’t get to — expand programs to age groups that are falling in between,” she said.
Recchio said he would also like to talk to RPBHS Principal Jesus Armas about getting permission to use that gym.
“I know he has become more and more active in the community and in wanting to work with us,” he said.