NEW PORT RICHEY
Parent-child bonding through sports is often done through organized youth leagues. The Pinto family of New Port Richey, however, has had a different experience through the Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot competition.
Olivia Pinto found out about the annual event through her school where a competition was held to find the best free-throw shooters the school had to offer.
"We did fourth- and fifth-graders, and I won," the 10-year-old said. "I was a little freaked out at the first round of the Hoop Shoot because there are all these people there watching you and they aren't allowed to make any noise. It's pretty intense."
Basketball is a big part of the Pinto household. Olivia's older sister Celeste, 13, plays for River Ridge Middle School and it's not uncommon to see the sisters out in the driveway playing against each other or working on fundamentals with their dad.
"My dad teaches me a lot of the basics," Olivia said. "We practiced a lot at the park and in the driveway on shooting free throws before this competition. I think basketball has brought all of us closer together."
For their father, Sgt. Kurt Pinto of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, the game gives him another way to bond with his daughters.
"It's good to spend time with them and teach them," Kurt said. "With her being so tall (Olivia is 5 feet 5), basketball just makes sense and it's something that I can help with as someone who grew up playing sports. Things like this Elks competition are a lot of fun."
The Elks Hoop Shoot sees thousands of kids compete nationally for the opportunity to get into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Though Olivia was knocked out of the state semi-final in Titusville, the Long Leaf Elementary fifth-grader sees herself coming back to the competition for a second go around.
"I was pretty disappointed that I didn't make it," Olivia said. "In the first round, I only got one out of 10. The second time you have to shoot 15 free throws, and I made eight. I think all the practice helped, but I just got nervous because of the crowd. I'm definitely going to do it again next year though."
Elks Hoop Shoot chairwoman Joanna Kudla sees several kids come through her lodge's competition each year and believes it's not possible for kids to succeed without the type of support from their parents that Olivia received.
"Over and over I see it," Kudla said. "Kids can't do it without the support of their parents. The competition builds the kids' confidence. They put things up on the board at their schools about what they're doing and we try to make it something that the kids can be proud of, but without the parents, it isn't the same."
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