For Bob Hoffman, summertime in the city has always included one vital component — basketball.
And that’s why, for the past eight years, he has provided local athletes with an opportunity to shoot hoops all summer long.
“This is basically to keep the kids playing. I just want to see them play basketball,” said Hoffman, creator and director of the Penn Academy Summer Basketball League. “There’s no championship. There are no playoffs. It’s just an opportunity for kids to play basketball. Whoever wants to come and play, plays.”
Hoffman created Penn Academy’s summer league eight years ago with six teams. Nowadays, there are 35 teams and almost 500 participants who are in fifth to 12th grades.
The league is divided by age groups — grades five and six, grades seven and eight, and high school athletes. There also are several female teams in the league.
While some of the squads are local — including competitors from Father Judge, Archbishop Ryan, George Washington and Frankford high schools — others travel from Bridesburg, West Philly and even New Jersey to participate in the league.
“It’s been a really good program for us,” said Penn Academy president Michael Greco. “It’s always growing. We include all skill levels. You don’t have to be at the top level. Anyone can play.”
The summer league costs $450 per team, which Greco explained usually translates to about $45 per athlete. The fee covers a reversible jersey and referee payments. All coaches are volunteers.
“I run the league, run the officials and coach at the same time,” Hoffman said with a smile. “I have three teams I coach on Monday nights, one on Wednesday night, and one on Thursday that I’m working with.”
Hoffman has been Penn Academy’s basketball director for 13 years, implementing the summer league, travel ball and an AAU league during that time. He’s also the head coach of Roman Catholic High School’s freshman team.
Actually, Hoffman has been coaching since he was 18. His association with Penn Academy goes back to shortly after his graduation from Abraham Lincoln High School. At the time, he was playing for Penn Academy’s 18U basketball squad while also coaching the 16U team.
After graduation, Hoffman was invited to try out for the 1976 Olympic team, but suffered a severe knee injury and was unable to participate. He later continued his coaching career with St. Katherine’s CYO squad for five years and, eventually, Roman Catholic High School.
“Bob is a great coach. He’s well-known in the neighborhood,” said Neil Frye, a Holmesburg resident who also coaches in the Penn Academy Summer League. “He has a lot to teach. He’s out here volunteering his time. This is probably one of the biggest years yet.”
The summer league is in session for nine weeks. Games are played Monday through Thursday at the Penn Crisp Gym on Academy Road.
“I like it here because all of the players contribute and you learn a lot,” said Isaac Vazquez, 12, a point guard and shooting guard. “It’s fun and it’s something to do in the summer.”
Once the summer league is done, Hoffman will present skill clinics in September and October on Saturday and Sunday nights, also at the Penn Crisp Gym. The clinics offer basic instructional coaching and teach the fundamentals of basketball. The clinics are free and open to the public.
ldquo;It’s usually word of mouth. You can walk in here one night and there are two kids in here working out, and you walk in the next night and there are fifteen,” said Hoffman. “I’m here doing basketball registration for the regular season, so I just open the gym up to whoever wants to be here.”
Established in 1960, Penn Academy now has more than 1,000 kids involved in its various programs. Although Penn Academy also offers baseball, softball, outdoor and indoor soccer and dance leagues, basketball continues to steadily increase its number of participants.
“To have the dedication he has, it’s rare,” said Frye, referring to Hoffman. “It’s not every day that you see a coach volunteering his time to run free clinics. It’s a great thing. As long as he’s doing this, I’ll be here to help him.” ••
For more information, visit www.PennAcademy.net
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org