The Valparaiso Boys and Girls Club held its Recognition Night for the players in the Valparaiso Junior Basketball Program for the 20th year on August 2. As the gymnasium slowly filled up with 80 administrators, parents, student volunteers and players, Lenny Corso spoke with his usual calm, humble humor. However, there was a sense of finality in the way he spoke, sealing the fact that Corso, an Advanced Physiology Professor from Ivy Tech, was retiring from the program after 20 years of service.
Twenty years ago, Corso realized that it was harder to be a parent on the sidelines of a basketball game.
“You can't pull the kids off the court and teach them how to correct their mistakes,” he said.
Corso then put together the Valparaiso Junior Basketball Program, trying to create an environment for kids to focus on learning instead of competing.
“There was no emphasis on winning because you didn't play to win; we focused on individual instruction,” he concluded.
Corso then summarized the history of the program itself, how they struggled to find a place to practice until they found their generous sponsors, which include Lakeshore Bone & Joint and Mike Blythe of Blythe's Athletics.
Owner of PharmaCard Pharmacy Dick Brychell said, “Nearly all the top varsity basketball players in Porter County have gone through Lenny's program and instruction. We sure will miss him."
Corso concurred, saying “By the time the kids reached middle school, coaches were telling me 'Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.'"
However, in his usual humble manner, Corso was quick to give credit to his supporters as well.
“We wouldn't have lasted these 20 years without our volunteers. They are critical, and many of the parents have said 'I want to help' and have become volunteers as well."
Unable to hold back a smile, Corso continued by thanking his wife.
"She supported me and my love of basketball so much that she changed our wedding date from March to April."
In his usual humorous fashion, Corso turned to his student instructors and chuckled.
“We choose kids to be student instructors for the players because its nice for them to have someone to look up to who doesn't have gray hair."
Lyndsey Haroldt, a freshman studying Health Sciences at DePaul University in Chicago, who has been involved in Corso's program since third grade said, “Lenny is the best coach in the state and a great guy. I'd be glad to come back if they needed help!”
As Corso finished handing out awards to students and volunteers, Chuck Leer, the President of the Porter County Boys & Girls Club, stepped forward to thank Corso for his service. "We've never had anyone put in 20 years of service like Lenny has," he said, choking back tears. "If everyone in Porter County worked like Lenny did, it'd be incredible."
Corso closed the ceremony by giving Chuck Leer a plaque, symbolizing the Boys and Girls Club taking over the program and tearfully said, "I've made many friends over the years, many of whom are here tonight. This is only a 50th of the people who've gone through this program. The basketball program is not just about teaching the skills of basketball; we teach discipline, to listen and to learn. We're here to watch these kids grow."