Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee Teaches Teen about Basketball, and Life

12th Annual George Webb Memorial Basketball Tournament to Begin March 11

CHICOPEE—Alayssia Rodriguez plays basketball every afternoon at the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, but she said coaches Marc Smith and James Gutierrez teach her far more than the rules of the game.

They also weave life learning into their on-court drills.

“I talk to James a lot, and he tells me how to act respectfully,” said Rodriguez, 12, a sixth grader at 1st Sergeant Kevin A. Dupont Memorial Middle School. “He teaches me how to address adults in a respectful way, and he teaches us about health and safety, making us stretch before games so we don’t hurt our ACLs.”  Rodriguez is an athlete who also plays soccer. She started playing basketball last year at the club after she was invited by a friend to join the team. She arrives every afternoon after school about 2:25 p.m. and plays until nearly 5 p.m., when not participating in other club activities.

She is one of several hundred young people between third and eighth grade who will take part in the 12th Annual George Webb Memorial Basketball Tournament to benefit the Boys & Girls Club, beginning March 11. Sponsored by The Vann Group of Springfield, a professional services outsourcing company headed by Kevin B. Vann, the three-week event was created by Vann in 2005 to honor his best friend, the late George Webb.

This tournament will be the second one Rodriguez will take part in; she said she is returning because it was good fun but also because she wants to show her commitment to basketball—and to the Boys & Girls Club. “I want to show that I’m a good person,” she said.

Elizabeth M. Daly, the club’s executive director, said many teens are loyal to the Boys & Girls Club in the same way as Rodriguez.  “The activities we provide are the entry in for the kids, but the true beauty and power is the relationship our kids get to have with the staff,” Daly said. “That kind of good experience happens over and over. Every day.”

Vann said last year’s Webb Tournament hosted 45 teams of boys and girls in grades three through eight, 25 percent more players than in 2014. “That attendance secures this young players’ tourney as the absolute biggest and most prestigious in all of western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut,” he said.

Of this year’s event, Vann said, “I can’t tell you how much it means to me, knowing that some 500 kids from teams across western Massachusetts and thousands of spectators will take part in this fun and healthy sport—all in George Webb’s honor.”

Webb regularly played pick-up basketball at the club until his death from cancer at age 52. “George grew up in the neighborhood, and he truly epitomized the values of the Boys & Girls Club ‘to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,’” Vann said.

Since 2005, the Webb Tournament has raised over $130,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee.

For more information about the tournament, visit www.bgcchicopee.org. For information on event sponsorship opportunities, contact Ruth Griggs at (413) 727-3354 or email her at Ruth@rccomms.com.

To learn about the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee, visit its website atwww.bgcchicopee.org.

Tournament sponsors to date are: The Vann Group; Alias Solutions; Bacon & Wilson, P.C.; TD Bank; United Bank; Royal, LLP; Chicopee Savings Charitable Foundation; Alden Credit Union; Dufault, Vann & Carella; Marion Excavating Company, Inc.; Diana’s Bakery; Farmington Bank; Mass Park, Inc.; Hu Ke Lau Restaurant; Premier Home Builders; Labrie, Pouliot, Larocque & Guiel, P.C.; J.D. Rivet & Company; Laplante Construction; Lebel/Lavigne Insurance Agency, Inc.; NUVO Bank and Trust; The Webb Family; Robert and Elizabeth Webb and Family; Mountain View Lawn Co., Inc.; BDC Capital; Weiss Consulting; and Pioneer Valley Financial Group.

Janice Beetle

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