PAL basketball clinic doubles as food drive

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:14

SPARTA — Brian Thomas volunteers his time to coach the Sparta PAL Basketball Program. In his inaugural year as head coach and program coordinator, he's continually proud of how hard the kids he coaches for their work on the court. Now Thomas has another reason to be proud. Thirty four of his kids volunteered to collect food for the needy, and what a job they did. "The kids did an unbelievable job and went above and beyond," he said. With the kids off Thursday and Friday of last week for teachers' conventions, Thomas decided to combine a basketball clinic with a food drive. "As the holidays approach, I was excited to have this clinic double as a food drive to benefit the Sparta 'Stuff the Bus' program," Thomas said. Since the clinic saw the kids training for three hours, he asked that each attendee bring three canned goods to be donated to the cause. As a bonus at the clinic, Thomas enlisted Dr. Gary Mascilak to do a 30 minute demonstration on how to properly stretch and warm up. Immensely respected in the field, Mascilak taught the kids the benefits of taking the time to properly prepare for their sport. Sparta PAL is open to boys and girls who live in Sparta and are in grades four through eight. The season runs from November through February with play-offs in March. The program's philosophy is, "Higher skilled players are challenged to compete in more highly competitive games against other towns’ travel teams. Skill development and practices are more demanding than in the in-town recreation program. In short—the travel basketball program is geared to a more serious and committed player." A level and B level Travel Teams practice together at any one of three gyms: Sparta Middle School, Sparta High School and the PAL Center. For further information about the program, e-mail or visit