The Team

The Sparks Basketball Club

Founded in 2003 by Chris Ford (former St. Benedict High School Girls’ Varsity Head Coach) and Harry Osborn (former St. Benedict High School Girls’ Junior Varsity Head Coach), with help from Pete Genge (former St. Benedict High School Girls’ Varsity Assistant Coach), Bob Mandel (former St. Benedict High School Girls’ Varsity Assistant Coach) and Bernadette Molloy (St. Benedict Grade School Head Coach). The inaugural team simply consisted of girls from St. Ben’s and St. Alphonsus, all of whom went on to play high school varsity. Two played in college. From it’s humble beginnings Sparks has grown to include as many as 100 girls from many Catholic and public schools playing on the North side of Chicago, mainly in the Chicago Catholic Youth League.

Our Mission

To provide a solid learning environment balanced with games, physical conditioning and practice to young women basketball players. To provide our players with the opportunity to grow in basketball knowledge and skill development in a competitive surrounding with attention to sportsmanship and fair play.

Our Philosophy

The Sparks Basketball Club and its coaching staff are dedicated to the positive development of our participants’ basketball skills so that they will be better equipped to face the challenges required for a successful continuation in the sport of basketball (as well as life) into high school, college and beyond.

We believe that in order to achieve, you must be challenged. Not just by us coaches, but by yourself. You must continually challenge yourself to overcome your weaknesses and limitations. We believe in the greatness in each young woman, and in empowerment through sports. We hope to provide that challenge in practices and games against quality competition. To compete we must want to win, but we don’t judge by the scoreboard. Win or lose, we–most importantly–want to see our players learn, adapt and utilize their skills to the best of their ability. It is, however, a two-way street. The players must, ultimately, be coachable and willing to work hard to get the most out of the Sparks’ experience.

The Sparks is at its base a teaching program. We do not hold try outs; all girls 3rd grade through 12th are welcome. While we coaches love to win (and have won many championships to prove it), we are wholly dedicated to teaching the basics of playing basketball, encouraging team over individual, and developing and inspiring confidence in each and every girl in the program.

We believe in fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. We also try to teach more than just how to–we like to teach the WHY. You can expect your girls will have better fundamental skills, and a new or improved sense of aggressiveness and self-esteem by the end of summer. Do you ever wonder why they say the proof is in the pudding”? Because it is.

It must work, just check out our accomplishments page to see how many girls have gone on to play in High School and college that  have come from our ranks. That’s why we say that Sparks makes a difference!!” Because it does.

Program Overview

While our program changes slightly from year to year, it generally consists of two (2) one hour-and-a-half practices a week (We usually begin on the weekends and move to weeknight and some weekends) at minimum for most of the summer, pending gym time, tournaments, league play, etc., as well as 5 tournaments for the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade levels. The 4th grade program is more developmental, but we try to find 2-4 tournaments per summer as well. We have entered weekly leagues in the past too, when available and of quality.

Practices include drills to develop individual dribbling, shooting, passing and rebounding skills. Not just the basic how to’s, but situational when’s and why’s as well. We work on form and footwork, whether it be shooting form and post moves or defensive stance and sliding. All in all, we teach to develop “basketball smarts”, which includes court sense/vision, when to attack and when to run clock, when to beat the offensive player to a spot and when to poke the ball from behind, when to react to a pass or a shot, etc. with an emphasis on teamwork.

Practice Rules/Expectations 

We will have a staff of coaches available at practices to help those that need and want help. Players and parents should recognize the fact that there must be self-discipline at all times. While we do not hold try outs, we can and will be selective if the need arises. This is not a school team–it is by invitation. We run a high school-style practice, structured to keep the whole team on track. 

Girls join our program to improve their basketball skills, and hopefully by doing so–win. There will be silence when a coach is talking, instructing, or while others on the team are learning from the coach. Directions coming from the coach are not just to the person or persons to whom they are talking, but pertain to each individual on the team. If you are not paying attention, you will not get the most out of the program.

If a player does not follow good sportsmanship or is continually disruptive, they will be asked to leave the practice and possibly the program. They will also forfeit all fees already paid. We have to do this because all fees will be designated to pay for tournaments, leagues, referees and jerseys in advance. We pay in advance because it saves us money and keeps our cost to you the lowest around. We do, however, have an open door policy if you have any issues we are willing to listen and discuss these before or after practice.

Tournaments include between 5-10 one or two day weekend regional tournaments, as well as one away trip to St. Joseph, MI as a program. Those committed to the program and prove they can execute in games what we teach in practice earn a spot on the one team (6th-7th-8th) sent to the end of Summer Nationals. We choose these because they tend to garner the greatest competition, and win or lose, you want to play against the best… even if that ends up being us!

Check out our accomplishments page to see the kind of success our teams have had. Not that it’s all about winning… we as coaches agree that while it’s nice to win, you learn more from losing. We are not a win-at-all-costs club team; we really want all the girls to achieve success and feel a part of the team. Playing time is at the discretion of the coach, and absences from practices or games (as well as behavior at practices and games) may influence the amount of playing time.

The tournaments are usually multiple-game days. In other words, you could have a game at 8AM and another at 12PM and another at 7. Most of the tournaments are weekends, except for the Nationals. The Nationals will be from Wednesday to Sunday. In that period we will play a nine (or more) game schedule.

Tournament Rules/Expectations

  • Players who miss practice the week of tournaments may not play in tournaments. We believe in rewarding commitment to the program.
  • Players who miss some practices, show up late or misbehave will have reduced playing time in games.
  • Players must be at the game venue ½ hour before game time.
  • Players must have their Sparks’ jerseys/uniforms to play (and to get in without paying).
  • Players must be properly attired (shorts and basketball shoes).
  • No jewelry may be worn on the court. This includes anything metal hair accessories.
  • Players should bring their own water or sports drink. Not all venues sell these during all game times.
  • If a player cannot be at a game, the team coach must be made aware in advance*. If not, that player may be removed from participation at the next tournament.
  • Parents must bring the players to games or make arrangements with other team parents. We understand some of this takes place during work hours and we all live busy lives, so we will help facilitate when asked, but ultimately it is the parents’ responsibility.
  • Players who are dedicated and commit to a tournament for all games will be considered first. Those who cannot, may not be added to a tournament roster.
  • Anyone who leaves a tournament early or without advanced notice to the coaches will be subject to penalty up to and possibly including termination and loss of registration and uniform fees.

It is critical that we have enough girls to play. Though tournament game times are usually scheduled the week of, we provide tournament dates in advance so that families can schedule other events around tournaments. If you have vacation or a camp already scheduled, we need to know. Vacation forms will be available at registration and online. Forfeiting is not an option. Not only do we lose our advance money, NAYS also charges a penalty fee. In order to prevent this, we must have dedicated players. Parents must be dedicated, as well, to provide their daughters with this experience.