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Technology Drives Local Youth Basketball

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — It's 10:20 a.m. on a summer Saturday morning at the unoccupied outdoor basketball courts at Saxe Middle School. In the next 10 minutes, dozens of cars pull up and unload 37 elite seventh- and eighth-grade basketball players from all over Fairfield County.

Those two quiet basketball courts suddenly become busy. For the next two-and-a-half hours, they host game after game of intense, win-or-sit-down, pick-up basketball. These young, hardcore hoop junkies cherish this experience.

How did 37 players from towns including Newtown, Ridgefield, Bridgeport, Trumbull, Weston, Stamford, Fairfield, Norwalk, Greenwich, Darien, Westport and New Canaan all know to show up in this one spot, at this one time and find terrific pickup games? Like many things in this Internet age, it was a website-driven event.

The Fairfield County Basketball League, which runs travel basketball game scheduling for more than 200 middle school age teams in Fairfield County and a couple of dozen teams from beyond, uses a website to put all of its thousands of participants on the same page. Its website, www.fcblhoops.org , which has already logged more than 1 million hits, is the league's primary administrative workhorse.

According to league board member Doug Scott, "Travel basketball for youth teams has been around for years and years, but no one ever tried to host a very sizable league, simply because the telephone-chain process was just too unwieldy. Then about seven years ago, one of our more tech-savvy brethren pointed out that if we used a website, we could change that. Boy, was he right. We have been growing ... every year since. Last winter, we had over 240 teams with us."

The website has enabled the league to become one of the largest youth basketball organizations in the country. Being that large creates benefits, such as stratifying the teams by grades and ability level. This allows team managers to create an appropriate schedule. In March, for the end-of-season tournaments, the league formed 23 different tournament peer-pools.

League rules are posted on the website. It contains  'How to' tabs on everything pertinent to the league. Directions to every gym are embedded in each team's schedule. Nearly every basketball camp and clinic in the area has a posting. It's essentially one-stop information shopping for the Fairfield County youth basketball family.

The pick-up game concept is another benefit. Any FCBL board member can choose a court, a day and a time for a pickup game and then use the website's emailing function to send out those details. He would use the website to target-market the specific players from a given grade and area, and then send a note to just those email addresses.

According to Scott, "In large population, urban area, high level, pick-up games tend to occur more spontaneously. Out here in the suburbs, we use the website's emailing to round up a critical mass number of good players into one spot at the same time."

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