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What Mike Klinzing of Head Start Can Teach You About Your Basketball Program

Head Start Basketball is a youth basketball organization that has been teaching the fundamentals of the game through camps, individual skill training, and online training videos in the greater Cleveland area since 1993. It was founded by Mike Klinzing.

They have approximately 1,000 plus players, boys and girls, that participate in their camps and training each year. These programs feature fundamental learning stations where players are taught the skills of the game, contests to test the skills learned, and the chance to play small sided games to maximize touches and player development.

LeagueApps is the official technology partner of Head Start Basketball.

Head Start was recently named the Jr. NBA Program of the Month for November for the work being done both on and off the court. In addition to being highlighted on the Jr. NBA website, Head Start was rewarded with a $1,000 gift card from Under Armour.

We had a chance to speak with Mike recently about the Jr. NBA as well as some other initiatives that Head Start has spearheaded. He had some great insight and tips into how other basketball directors can grow their basketball programs.

On Founding Head Start Basketball

A year after graduating from Kent State, Mike had the idea of running camps specifically for elementary school kids near his hometown of Strongsville, Ohio. There were seven elementary schools at the time.

“It started as a neighborhood thing. I’d run a camp at each elementary school for a total of three hours a day. Then it grew to high school as well after a year or two,” he said.

Mike claims there was not much ambition in starting a youth basketball business other than giving back. In fact, he started his camps at a time when there was a lot of competition in the market. That was one of the main challenges he faced in the early years.

“I got a head start in learning the game correctly, so I felt it was my duty to give back to the community where I grew up. From a business standpoint, I was sort of okay being stuck in the status quo,” he said.

Mike sees a big shift in the marketplace today. As youth basketball gets more and more competitive in travel ball and AAU leagues, there’s a definite opening for camp and program directors like Mike to give every kid a quality opportunity to play the game.

Not only is that growing his sports business, but it’s staying true to his mission of making great experiences for kids on the basketball court.

On Delivering Great Experiences to Members

As Mike’s camps grew and more and more kids registered with Head Start, he noticed larger amount of parents were interested in what the kids could be doing when not at organized practices. That’s when the idea of a video training plan came up.

“For some time, I had a blog to give parents valuable content so that more traffic would be sent to our website,” he said. “The idea of creating a series of videos to help parents, and even coaches, sort of spurned from the blog.”

What followed was the Daily Dozen, a series of 60 drills for kids to use over a 90-day span. The reward was that parents and players trusted Mike even when they weren’t currently registered one of his camps. When registration started back up again, the camps filled up in no time.

Faith, a parent located in Strongsville, recommends Mike’s combined style of online and in-person training so beneficial and unique, she now has multi kids in his programs.

“My children really enjoy the Head Start Basketball Camps and look forward to attending each summer.  Their basketball skills and sportsmanship have greatly improved with the help of Mike and his staff,” she said.

The Jr. NBA recently released a curriculum that is absolutely free to any coach or organizer to help them with practice plans, drills, and other basketball organized activity. A unique way to use the curriculum would be to watch the videos and grab some inspiration on how to make your own training videos to improve the user experience for your program.

“There’s no excuse not to use the Jr. NBA Curriculum,” Mike said.

 

On Being Named the Jr. NBA Program of the Month

Shortly after the Jr. NBA launched their Program of the Month initiative, Mike filled out a form that was emailed to him through the Jr. NBA newsletter. He figured it was worth a shot to win so he didn’t mind taking the hour to answer all the questions.

The Jr. NBA followed up with a questionnaire that took him about 20 minutes to fill out. By December, Mike was notified that Head Start was named the winner for the month of November.

“For less than 90 minutes of work, I got a ton of great, free press and a $1,000 gift card. I highly recommend the process to any organization.”

His relationship with the Jr. NBA has also opened up other opportunities with another leading youth basketball, the Positive Coaching Alliance. Mike and Head Start Basketball will play an integral part in helping shape PCA Cleveland, as official Jr. NBA Programs of the Month get to experience free PCA workshops to help train youth coaches.

As a USA Basketball Youth Development Certified Coach, Mike sees the benefit and similarities of all three organizations. “It’s great to be associated with all three of these organizations. They all teach correctly and they all teach sportsmanship,” he said.”

Head Start Basketball plans to use the Under Armour gift card to provide athletic apparel and equipment to kids in need through one of their giving initiatives and to purchase new basketballs to replace some of the older balls currently in use.

On Being True To A Mission That’s About More Than Basketball

Cleveland’s youth basketball players aren’t the only ones that benefit from Head Start Basketball. The surrounding community benefits in numerous ways as well with his “Train for Life” program that provides opportunities for athletes to get involved with service projects.

Every Christmas, they participate in a holiday giving event in which every year they sponsor families at a local Pro Sports Performance. This past Christmas was the fourth year of the event. Twenty-one families were sponsored with over $25,000 worth of gifts. Over 250 athletes and individuals participated.

“It was so great. Basketball and softball players, wrestlers, elementary, middle, high school students were all in attendance.”

Head Start also has a partnership with Ohio Guidestone, which is an organization that serves children and families on different community-based services, including mental health services, foster care, and residential care. With Head Start’s help, the charity event was able to host a baby shower for nine expectant mothers.

“It’s what I’m most proud of. When people get done doing something with us, they walk away feeling they get their money’s worth.”

On Working With LeagueApps

Mike partnered with LeagueApps to get deeper reporting and immediate access to help with data collection.

“I was doing payments through PayPal but the site couldn’t collect data. I had to hand type data into an Excel sheet. This has been the biggest and best thing. Now I get the information immediately.”

The transition to a new sports management platform has been seamless for Mike, his current customers, and his users.

“That’s been the case completely. I’ve not had one issue with people registering, money not showing up, refunds. It’s all been seamless,” he said.

Before, Mike was okay in the status quo. But now, his youth basketball business is seeking expansion.

“At this point, we’re really looking to expand and grow. We’re in a great spot now.”

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