By ABBY SLANKER
Hilltop Elementary School third-grade students got a very special visit from the Youngstown State University Lady Penguins basketball coaching staff and players Feb. 28.
The coaching staff, including head coach Bob Boldon and assistant coaches Kate Schrader, Mary Evans, Tavares Jackson and John Cullen, along with junior player Liz Hornberger and senior player Brandi Brown, led the students in several skills stations.
The students rotated around the gym to each station, including dribbling, passing and shooting. A coach was at each station to give instruction and encouragement.
“The kids are really listening to the coaches. The coaches are all very encouraging and positive toward the kids. This is a big deal for the kids. They are really having fun and are learning at the same time,” said Linda Magyar, Hilltop Elementary School physical education teacher.
Hornberger and Brown were stationed at the back of the gym and made themselves available for the students to ask questions.
“Talking to the players and being able to ask them any questions they want, not just about basketball, is always a favorite of the kids. It’s always very interesting to listen to the questions the kids ask,” said Boldon.
According to Boldon, whose son Tyler is a third-grader at Hilltop, the team visits 10 to 12 school districts a year.
“We have visited elementary schools in Boardman, Poland and Youngstown. Sometimes our players read to the students and sometimes we hold this mini basketball camp. It pretty much depends on the school and what arrangements can be made. It is very important to us to give back to the community as much as we can,” Boldon said.
The players all participate, depending on their class schedule.
“The players like to visit the schools and it all depends on their class schedule as to which schools they go to. Every school we have visited has been very receptive and appreciative. We see lots of kids smiling wherever we go,” Boldon said.
Hilltop students had an hour to soak up the knowledge of the coaching staff and players. At the end of the hour, the coaches handed out YSU souvenirs to the students, including water bottles, key chains and lanyards.
As another parting gift to the students, with them encouraging her and chanting in the background, Brown displayed her incredible basketball skills and ended the hour with a slam dunk, amidst loud cheers from the students.