Dick Vitale talks hoops with parents and youth players at Seacrest

  • By Scott Clair in the Naples Daily News
  • Posted April 17, 2011 at 6:26 p.m.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale talks college basketball all the time. But on Saturday at the SWFL Youth League registration day at the Seacrest Country Day School gym, Vitale was talking up the kids’ game.

Vitale, who joined ESPN in 1979, started his coaching career more than 50 years ago. It wasn’t at a big-time NCAA program or with an NBA team, he would move on to those later.

Vitale started on the elementary school level in Garfield, N.J., with players about the size of the dozens of kids, ages five and up, running around the gym here Saturday learning the game of hoops.

More than 500 boys and girls, between ages five and 17, signed up to be a part of the league on Saturday, considerably more than 160 it began with last September.

Vitale took time to address the kids and their parents about what’s important about playing youth sports.

“What’s important is that parents have a comprehension how to handle it,” said Vitale, who coached at Rutgers, the University of Detroit and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. “I went to a Little League baseball game and I was blown away by some of the actions of the people. Expectations get a little crazy, the demands of perfection.

“I think (parents) ought to let the kids really have fun, learn basic skills. Don’t worry about winning now or scoring points. It’s about how to play. Learning about playing with others.”

Vitale said he sees the youth game not so much as a springboard to an NBA career, but as a springboard to life.

“When you get older, life is blended into all people — white people, black people, rich people, poor people — all uniting together,” said Vitale, a resident of Sarasota. “And that’s what participation in sports gives you — the opportunity to learn all those qualities that can help you grow as a person. You hope that parents instill that.”

Vitale also pointed out to the crowd how lucky they were to be able to play basketball in a league like the SWFL Youth. Earlier in the week, Vitale visited a hospital and sat down with kids who are battling cancer.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids that aren’t able to do what these kids are doing today,” said Vitale, who was also signing copies of his books, “Fabulous 50 Players and Moments in College Basketball” and “Dickie V’s ABCs and 1-2-3s,” a children’s book.

The Ritz-Carlton Resort Sarasota on May 20 will host the Sixth Annual Dick Vitale Gala, which will benefit the V Foundation in support of pediatric cancer research. Last year the event raised more than $1 million.

All profits from Vitale’s book sales go toward the charity.

“I don’t make five cents from these,” he said. “If anyone wants to help me, they can go to my website and make a donation toward pediatric cancer.”

Vitale got back to his main point about youth basketball — it’s about the kids, having fun, and learning life’s lessons.

“I had a great mother and father,” Vitale said. “They had no education but had a doctorate in love. They taught me that if you sweat and do things the right way, and if you’re good to people, a lot of beautiful things will happen to you.

“Life is simple: make good choices, good things happen. Make bad choices, bad things happen.”

Original Article Link: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2011/apr/16/dick-vitale-talks-hoops-parents-and-youth-players