Basketball league run through the ACHaD organization and the JCC helps children with special needs


Courtesy of @newmanteaches

Greg Rothkoff, Eastside Staff

For the past six years, Eric Newman of Voorhees has been helping kids with special needs have a rewarding experience that they otherwise would not receive.

Newman runs a basketball league for children ages 13 to 21 that helps kids with special needs learn how to play basketball. The kids are not only playing basketball, but also developing social skills to help them in life.

The league runs through the ACHaD organization and through the Jewish Community Center (JCC). ACHaD also has a number of after school programs such as swimming, arts and crafts, and numerous social groups.

Newman started the basketball league because his son, Max, who has special needs, wanted to play basketball. Newman noticed that there was not a significant amount of leagues for children with disabilities. In the hope of facilitating a change, Newman contacted the ACHaD organization, and a year later, there was a special needs basketball league open to the whole community.

“The beauty of it is that the whole community is involved,” said Newman.

The league started out as Max and four other kids. Now, the league has grown beyond Newman’s wildest dreams. The number of volunteers are increasing with the number of players.

“The league wouldn’t have been successful if it wasn’t for the support,” said Newman.

The expanding league had to be put into two groups. One group is about developing skills and the second group is more about playing the game. Both groups have one thing in common, they are all about having fun at the end of the day.

The league is nine months long, going from October to June and is held every Monday. After the first month, which is known as the practice month, BBYO comes in and plays against ACHaD. The league finishes off with the Tess Norton Classic. At the Tess Norton Classic, there are award ceremonies, a lunch for all the families and of course, a finals game.

Max is now 22 years old, not allowing him to play in the ACHaD league anymore. Max still has a thirst for basketball, so Newman set up a separate league at the 1721 Annex on Springdale Road for adults with special needs over 21.

Parents of the players have also benefited greatly from the league. Ms. W, who has asked that her and her son’s names are kept private, has a son, Bob, in the basketball league.

“When we first got here, he wasn’t doing very well. Now he follows academics and is more confident,” said Ms. W.

Ms. W found out about the league when her son was taking a special needs yoga class. Bob is age 14 and has been in the league for the past year. The league has made life easier for Bob and his mother because it has taught Bob independence and teamwork.

“I think the [volunteers] are good role models. They are very accepting of who they are,” said W.

The volunteers are a huge part of the league. Sometimes, there are so many volunteers that Newman has to set up a rotation schedule. Not just the players learn skills, but also the volunteers as they work with and encourage participants of the league..

The league has been a very important part of the community and many of the players lives. Some players have been in the league since its beginning six years ago. Newman is excited to see what this season and the future have to offer.