Bergen Youth Hoops Program Continues During NJ Indoor Sports Ban

The director of a Bergen County-based organization said he's found a way to keep from shutting down a youth basketball program amid a COVID-related statewide suspension of all indoor sports that began Saturday.

Hoops Photo Credit: CMEK

An indoor kids basketball program operated by Englewood-based CMEK will continue uninterrupted "through the month of December and beyond," Director Chad Mekles wrote this past week to parents.

Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the suspension, which covers all youth and adult sports, amid a rising resurgence in COVID-19 cases. It remains in place at least until Jan. 2, he said.

The decision to let kids keep playing at CMEK facilities followed “numerous thoughtful discussions with our medical and legal experts and trusted consultants,” Mekles wrote in Thursday's email.

Murphy provided guidelines that allow his program to continue, he said.

“The governor stated, as an example, that going to the batting cage is ok,” Mekles explained. “We interpret his guidelines that he is encouraging players to continue to train and stay active.”

To be safe, CMEK has created “individual skills workouts within the group setting," with each grade separated at its five locations in four towns, he added.

Each player uses an individual basketball, with all of them spaced six feet apart “and/or put in small groups,” Mekles wrote.

The maximum number of players per court is 10, and masks are worn before, during and after play, he added.

“Each group will be able to operate slightly differently based on a number of factors,” Mekles wrote, without elaborating.

State officials on Friday reported 5,673 new coronavirus cases in New Jersey, bringing the statewide total to 356,662. Another 48 deaths brought the total deaths attributed to COVID in the state to 15,419, they said.

Mekles founded CMEK youth basketball program for children up to grade 6 in 1997 (The acronym originally stood for “Chad Mekles Expert with Kids” but has since be switched into “Confidence Motivation Excellence Knowledge”).

Since then, CMEK has offered basketball skills training programs, AAU Travel Teams, birthday parties, school break camps, leagues, private lessons and summer camp.

The basketball skills program operates at:

  • The Jewish Center of Teaneck on Sterling Road;
  • Kaplen JCC on the Palisades and St. John the Theologian Greek Orthodox Church, both on East Clinton Avenue in Tenafly;
  • Northern Valley Evangelical Free Church on Stivers Street in Cresskill;
  • Fair Lawn Jewish Center on Norma Avenue.

The cost ranges from $295 to $375 per child.

Mekles asked any parents who have specific questions about the program’s current setup to contact him directly.

He promised an “instructional, fun, and safe” experience during “these challenging times.”

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