After a successful first year as a part of the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Association’s youth basketball league — in which the school fielded 16 teams with 125 students total — Cherokee Charter has seen the number of students participating in its basketball program rise to just over 200, with 25 teams in all.
The school on Sixes Road, which shares facilities with Watermarke Church, has students from kindergarten through eighth grade, and is attended by roughly 1,000 students. Every grade level has at least one basketball team divided by gender.
After practicing once a week, the teams compete on Friday nights and Saturday mornings against other teams in the county, with their season lasting until February.
Volunteer director Jon Rogers believes the rise in popularity of the school’s basketball teams stems from the students, who come from all parts of the county, wanting to build friendships with fellow classmates.
“Because we are a school that serves the whole county, some of these kids don’t live close to their classmates, so any type of extracurricular activity, whether it is a sport or a club, or anything like that, really helps them to connect,” Rogers said. “I think, when kids connect, with their classmates outside of the classroom and get to know one another, it helps their entire educational experience. It’s a good way for them to bond.”
Rogers also felt that it was important for the Cherokee Charter students to be interacting outside of the classroom, as it brings them, and the parents, closer together.
“Not only do the kids connect with each other, but the parents connect as well,” he said. “When you have a support network between parents, it really helps the overall experience, because we know the success of the students is based on how involved the parents are.”
It’s solely though parent volunteers that the teams are able to play — the school has close to 50 parents who help to coordinate practices, or to serve as team moms and coaches.
Rogers himself coaches the schools’ seventh-grade boys and third-grade girls teams.
Rebecca Garcia, another volunteer who has three children playing on three separate teams and also coaches, feels that being a part of the school’s basketball program has been a unifying experience for all involved.
“The spirit of this school is very strong,” Garcia said. “It took a lot to get it open, so there is a real camaraderie and positive support between everyone.”