Good teams tend to have great chemistry.
At the high school level, building that chemistry with new players coming through the wood work year in and year out takes time. What better way to speed up the process than to take a team trip to Disney World to kick off the new season?
For the fourth time in the past five years, that’s exactly what the Salem High boys basketball team is doing. This year, both the Marblehead and Pingree boys and girls squads will be joining them down in Florida to not only compete against other schools across the country in a trio of games, but to experience some true group bonding.
“The bonding is spectacular and the lifelong memory these kids will have is special,” said Witches head coach Tom Doyle. “We had a couple of kids from the original team we took down there in 2018 come to practice the other day and they brought up the trip, telling our guys that they were going to have a blast and it was the best time of their lives. It’s just a tremendous experience and the one thing I’m really happy about is every single kid is fully funded; nobody has to pay out of pocket.”
As was the case with Marblehead, Salem held a number of fundraisers in an effort to pay for the trip. The big one, which the Magicians participated in as well, occurred during October in Salem, where the teams ran parking lots and charged visitors a small fee to leave their cars there. Doyle says his program also sold chocolates and received a number of generous donations from “great alumni and community donors.”
“The trip costs roughly $2,000 per person when you add it all up,” said Marblehead boys head coach Mike Giardi. “We did the parking lots over in Salem, we had an alumni dinner the night before Thanksgiving, and we had the ‘tip-off’ event with over 200 youth kids coming to Marblehead High and working with the varsity players.
“It’s been great; we’ve raised over $50,000 in a short amount of time and have had great support from parents and alumni, and the kids have really stepped up to make this a reality.”
Giardi says his team also sold some raffle tickets with prizes such as tickets to Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox games.
All local participating teams will begin play on Monday at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, FL as part of the KSA Events Basketball Classic. The Marblehead boys squad will compete in the Black bracket, with opposing teams from Alabama (Cullman High School), Pennsylvania (New Castle) and Tennessee (Tennessee High School). The Magicians will stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando, getting in plenty of time at the parks between games as well.
“It’s going to pretty tough competition down there for sure. We’re playing a defending state champion and a state runner-up so definitely some tough games,” said Giardi. “But it’s a great opportunity; the big part of it is the bonding not only with the fundraising efforts but also being down there which will be great.”
Meanwhile, the Marblehead girls squad will play in the larger Red bracket with schools from Missouri, Arkansas, Colorado, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Louisiana also taking part.
Salem boys will be in the Blue bracket with other teams from Alabama, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee and Rhode Island. Pingree boys are slated in the Green bracket with squads from Florida, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, while the Highlander girls program is in the Orange bracket against schools from Oklahoma, Texas and Pennsylvania.
The plan is for the players to periodically check in with their teachers and get some school work done remotely during the trip, with plenty of free time to explore the parks as well.
The hoops tourney will run through this Friday. The hope is that each team involved will return home with a couple of wins under their belts, eager and ready to continue their regular season slate heading into the new calendar year.
Contact Nick Giannino at NGiannino@Salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGiannino_SN.
Good teams tend to have great chemistry.