A new program designed to connect young players to Osseo High girls’ basketball is enjoying a successful inaugural season.
The program, called Ladybird, allows girls from grades one through six to have special access to the Osseo High varsity team and see what life is like as an Oriole. Seventeen girls are in the program in the 2018-19 season. The idea for Ladybird was “hatched” by parent Suzie Rivers and endorsed by Oriole head coach Doug Erlien and the booster club.
“This program helps young Osseo girls find a unique connection to their future school, which is sometimes difficult with the number of schools in the district,” said Rivers, who has two daughters in the program. “It also helps them form the bonds of a team at an early age and gives them a big player to have as a mentor. As much as the new program is meant to help youth, it benefits the varsity players as well. It adds an entirely new level of responsibility and encourages better sportsmanship and play when you have people specifically vested in and watching your every move.”
The program consists of three groups, split by age: the Peeps, Squeakers and Chicks. All groups participate in team pasta parties with the varsity players. They have made signs and goodie bags for the team when they traveled to Moorhead earlier this year, decorated the player’s lockers and get their own special seating area at home games called “The Nest.”
Ladybirds get free admission to all home games and during specially assigned nights they are recognized at home games and get behind the scenes access to huddles and locker room discussions before and during the game. For the older “Chicks,” who are in fifth and sixth grades, they get more individualized attention by being matched with a varsity player. The players and Ladybirds in this age group exchange notes of encouragement with each other and even receive encouragement from coach Erlien.
Both current and future Orioles are enjoying their participation in Ladybirds.
“I like to be a part of Ladybirds because I meet new friends every time I go, including high schoolers,” said Elm Creek Elementary second grader Amelia Jones, who is paired with Oriole Tamia Brack. “I like going to the basketball games so I can learn from my new friends. I love to play basketball too.”
Elm Creek Elementary fifth grader Teagan Rivers is paired with Osseo High junior Mankapuh Wontaa (MK).“I love MK,” Teagan said. “She teaches me how to be fun and encourage the team.”
“This is great,” Osseo starting varsity guard Anna Corona said. “I wish I had this program when I was younger.”
“Our Ladybird program is amazing,” Erlien said. “ It is connecting our future Orioles basketball players with our high school program. Having them excited about Osseo girls’ basketball at an early age is a great thing.”