The adaptive sports program at the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Department, formerly known as Superhero Sports and now known as Harker Heights Ability Sports, is growing in popularity.

Designed for children with special needs between the ages of 5 and 22, the program has a rotating schedule of different sports from which to choose, such as rock climbing and tennis. This time around the sport is basketball.

There are already 36 children registered for the adaptive basketball program, a number that athletic coordinator Bailey Ross said is, “higher than past years,” which was echoed by athletic coordinator Jonathan Hanson.

Director of Parks and Recreation Jeff Achee said, “It is a record number of kids.”

Tuesday night had all hands on deck, with both Achee and Hanson, as well as more than a dozen volunteers helping those 36 children, both boys and girls, on the Harker Heights Community Center’s basketball court learn the basics of basketball.

Children would learn dribbling, passing and shooting the basketball at hoops of varying heights — higher hoops for the older children and lower hoops for the younger ones.

Achee and his team know that the basketball program teaches the children so much more than just the rules and basic moves of the game.

It works on depth perception, hand-eye coordination, and both fine and gross motor skills. It teaches them to look and listen for both verbal and non-verbal cues, and works on timing.

It helps social development by teaching social skills and teamwork; it also builds confidence and self-esteem.

For some of the children, this was their first time at a Heights adaptive sports program, though according to the parents it wouldn’t be their last.

Eight-year-old Joseph Marston, for instance, had never had an experience with any adaptive sports program whatsoever.

His mother, Stacy, said, “He’s been getting into sports more here lately. He does the basketball a little bit at home, and I’ve been wanting to get him into sports, (but) it’s hard to find something he can keep up with.” She said she found the Heights adaptive sports program online and immediately signed him up.

Joseph said of the game, “I love it!” Based on his response, Marston said she would probably be signing him up for the next program in the lineup, bowling, which begins in June.

This was also a first for 6-year-old Diego Diaz. Mother Francheska said, “We just moved here, so this our first time ... Once I found out there was (a special needs program) here, I signed him up ... They’re working on social skills, listening, taking turns — I wanted him to have this experience.”

She said that though she may not be signing Diego, who is very active, up for bowling, she would definitely be signing him up for the soccer program, which begins in July.

The Galvan family, however, are no strangers to the adaptive sports program. Lanie Galvan said of her 5-year-old son, Giovanni, “He did soccer last year ... We try to sign him up for every sport offered. He loves soccer, he loves swimming — he’s a social butterfly. Anything that comes up, we’ll sign him up for, just to see what he likes.”

By the end of the evening, even Diego was participating with the other children and listening to the directions given him.

His mother said, “It’s good for him. I’m glad I got him enrolled.”

“We’re happy that people know about it (the adaptive sports program) and want to be a part of it,” said Hanson.

For more information about the Harker Heights adaptive sports program, to include the sports schedule and registration information, please call 254-953, 5657, or go to the website at www.ci.harker-heights.tx.us/index.php/adaptive-sports.

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