Learn the game without the shame

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On youth basketball teams all around the country, kids are left to sit on the bench and watch the stars get the bulk of the minutes, due to the fact that they are a little less athletic than the others.

Joel Mansbach, 72, encountered this same persistent problem even with his little boy, and decided there needed to be a change. Mansbach saw the biggest problems when he observed the coaches berating his own son for making minor mistakes and made him ride the bench during his time in youth basketball.

“His coaches, who were only interested in winning, screamed at these eight-year-old kids whenever they made a mistake, which was often,” said Mansbach. “Worse, they never showed them what they did wrong or taught them how to do it correctly – That’s when the idea of a ‘school,’ rather than a league, was born.”

First Shot Basketball School, which has several locations including Forrest Hills, Bayside and Jamaica Estates, is a non-competitive outlet for children ages five to 14 to learn the basics of basketball with only one method of teaching – positive reinforcement.    

The Forrest Hills school is located on 63rd Drive, the Jamaica Estates facility is on Randor Road, and the Bayside group is located on Springfield Boulevard. Each have a maximum limit of 20 students to ensure sufficient time with each student. Once a week, the kids meet with five coaches for around two hours.

The school holds two 12-week seasons that run from October through June. A payment plan can be obtained if needed for the $435 tuition fee. First Shot also has a money-back guarantee for a full refund, no questions asked, if the student or parents don’t like the school.

Mansbach, who runs the school with his wife Joan, learned that the only real way to teach younger kids about a sport is to guide them with an open heart and a helpful hand.

“No one yells, no one is treated unfairly,” said Joan. There are no ‘star’ personalities at First Shot.”

Joel, who has two daughters along with his son, left the advertising world and his textile business to venture out into a new career path. “At age 60, I decided to reinvent myself and, with a great deal of encouragement and support from Joan, created the model for First Shot Basketball School.”

With the school going into its 13th year, both Joel and Joan have devoted most of their free time – if they even have any – to furthering the advancement of the ever-growing school. They teach the kids everything from lay-up drills to stellar defensive skills, and even an eight-point system to achieve a perfect foul shot.

“The individual comments, emails, notes we get from the parents validate what we are doing,” said Joan.

The school’s policy, which is different than most other schools’, is that no fathers are allowed to become coaches, which in turn, abolishes favoritism. Currently, First Shot has 11 coaches who are all paid and trained to teach at the highest level.

For the teaching tandem who live in Forrest Hills, watching these kids elevate their game through hard work and dedication makes the pain and sacrifice worth every second.

“Watching their faces, seeing how proud they look when they make that first shot and how they beam when all the parents cheer for them … this is joy that money cannot buy,” said Joel.

For more information on signing up for the basketball school, call 718-275-7974 or email questions to info@firstshotbasketball.com.