The Hollister Tiger Designer Genes Basketball Team is getting prepared to take the court for the first time this season.
The Designer Genes team at Hollister is comprised of students with special needs. For their first game of the season on Jan. 7, the Hollister team will travel to play against the Designer Genes team from the Crane School District.
Hollister Director of Special Education Services Kristina Smith said the Designer Genes program was launched in 2014 by Crane Administrator and Baseball Coach Bryan Harmon. The program was started to give students with special needs the chance to play a school sport and show off their abilities on the court.
“Last year, we had some students showing some interest wanting to be able to participate,” said Smith. “Coach Harmon had already reached out to our school district saying, ‘Would you guys be interested or willing or have enough numbers to put together a team that we could play?’ We jumped on the opportunity, because most certainly we want to be able to provide all of our students a way to be able to practice or to showcase their interests in whatever that might be.
“So as we got involved last year, we started small and just said, ‘We’ll schedule a couple of games and see if it takes off and see if we have enough interest and that our kids are wanting to participate.’”
Even before school started this year, Smith said, she was getting bombarded by both parents and students who wanted to know if they were going continue the program this year.
“The community bought in last year and said, ‘This is an incredible and an amazing opportunity. We love supporting it. We love coming to watch it. Are you guys doing it again next year?’ My answer of course was, ‘I don’t know if I have a choice to say yes or no?’ I think that decision has been made by everybody else.
“Because there was enough interest, not just for the students that were wanting to play, but everybody that was able to witness just what a special night it is.”
Smith explained that the Designer Genes games operates a little bit differently than the typical basketball game.
“We usually put about 15 to 20 minutes on the clock. It still is five versus five. But we’re not calling fouls. We’re not calling walking or traveling or double dribbles or anything like that,” Smith Said. “Our students each get an opportunity to be able to shoot the ball.
“Each team usually has two to three buddies. So it can range from somebody on the student body that comes out and is pointing them and guiding them down the floor to be able to get them down there to shoot, to being able to help them and say ‘Stand right here and try to shoot right here.’”
All of the players get to run through a banner and get to have their names announced over the speakers at the beginning of a game.
The school also makes signs for each of the individuals players on both teams. They also get to have a pizza party following the game.
“I would just say to the community that this is one of the most special nights of the entire year that we are able to put on within our school district,” said Smith. “Not only are we highlighting our athletes for our basketball games that they’re playing, but we’re able to make this one of the most memorable nights for our students with special needs.”
The team will also travel and compete against the other schools in the Designer Genes program, which include Hurley, Galena and Crane.
The Hollister team will travel to play the Clever School District team on Jan. 23. and have it’s first home game on Jan. 30.