Every summer since 2010, hundreds of local youth have participated in Vertical Sports Maui’s annual weeklong basketballMAUI camp at the War Memorial Gym in Wailuku, where former and active college basketball players and coaches guide campers through basketball skills training with an emphasis on enthusiasm, leadership and teamwork.

This year will be a little different.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vertical Sports Maui made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 basketballMAUI camp. But its executive director, Josh Duinker, and board of directors, which includes Matt Tarasenko, Principal Broker of PMI Maui and Lydia Pedro and Alana Rucynski of the Top Maui Homes team of Wailea Realty Corp. + Winderemere Real Estate, came up with a Plan B.

Since April 9, Vertical Sports Maui has hosted twice-weekly virtual basketball skills and strength and conditioning clinics for kids ages 7 to 18 on Zoom. The hour-long “Vertical Sports Online” clinics include a 45-minute training session, followed by a 15-minute discussion about the mental and spiritual aspects of sports. “One of our core values is developing the total athlete: body, mind and spirit,” said Duinker, a former Division 1 athlete who played professional basketball for seven years; he leads the weekly basketball skills Zoom sessions.

“The Zoom sessions we are doing with the kids are fantastic,” Rucynski said. “I have done them alongside the kids. It’s a great workout and a great time of fellowship. I am so proud that we have added this important aspect of training, especially in this time of COVID-19.”

Each virtual session has anywhere from 12 to 25 attendees and there’s no cost to register.  “We will be doing the Zoom clinics as long as we are in quarantine,” Duinker explained. “The plan is to continue training together in person when we can gather again.”

Vertical Sports Maui is an all-volunteer, donor-funded nonprofit organization that offers meaningful sports programs for youth, including baseballMAUI and its flagship program, basketballMAUI. Founded in 2010 by Ben Prangnell, basketballMAUI came under the umbrella of the newly minted Vertical Sports Maui last year. Pedro and Rucynski have served on the nonprofit’s board of directors since basketballMAUI’s inception 10 years ago. In that time, they’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of Vertical Sports Maui and its programs. “The kids get so much out of this experience,” Pedro said. And it’s not just about learning how to dribble or shoot free throws. “They also connect with the coaches and develop friendships with kids from different schools and backgrounds,” she said.

Tarasenko joined the board in 2015 after volunteering at basketballMAUI’s annual summer camp. Seeing the positive effects the camp had not only on my kids, but also on others, inspired me to become more involved,” he said.  

“Our goal is to continue expanding to different sports, encouraging kids to live purpose-driven lives,” Duinker said. “We bring professional athletes and college level coaches and players to attend our camps, and give children an experience that can change the course of their lives.”

And no child will ever be excluded from any of Vertical Sports Maui’s programs for lack of financial resources. “One of the things that we have made a priority is that all of our programs are available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay for them,” Tarasenko said.

You can help Vertical Sports Maui keep its free clinics—virtual and otherwise—up and running by making a donation or becoming a monthly supporter. To make a contribution, visit www.verticalsportsmaui.com/donate. To register your child for the free Zoom clinics, visit www.verticalsportsmaui.com and click on “Vertical Sports Online.” For more information about Vertical Sports Maui, visit www.verticalsportsmaui.com or contact Duinker at verticalsportsmaui@gmail.com.

The Maui News – May 11, 2020

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