Kyle Rakotci and Kurtis Hall, brothers-in-law and twenty-somethings who recently moved to Hudson, can now call themselves — as well as the rest of the Hudson Kiwanis seventh and eighth grade basketball team — champions.
Rakotci , a 2010 graduate of Hudson High School, and Hall’s father they were looking for something to do with their weeknights. Tom Rakotci (Kyle’s dad) is on the board of Kiwanis Club of Hudson, and he suggested the two volunteer to coach the youth team.
The volunteer experience brought them closer, taught them responsibility and allowed them to guide some middle school basketball players all the way to the championship Feb. 10.
"My dad had coached my Kiwanis team when I played, and he knew that Kiwanis was always looking for volunteers to help with their programs, so he suggested we coach," Kyle said.
It didn’t take much to convince Kurtis to team up with his brother in law. One phone call to Hudson Community Education and Recreation’s Brett Munich, the Kiwanis Basketball program coordinator, a quick background check, and the two young men were named co-head coaches.
"I played Hudson Kiwanis basketball and was part of the Kiwanis travel program up until 8 th grade," Kyle said. "We knew the game pretty well and thought we would be able to coach this age group."
What the two didn’t expect was the different levels of experience on their team. Some kids had played for a long time, others had not really played organized basketball.
"Unfortunately we went 0 and 2 our first two games," said Kyle. "So Kurtis and I got together and designed some plays for the team. We also stressed the important of defense."
In fact, the team took on the nickname of "Team Cookies," because Kyle was always telling the kids "give me those cookies," a slogan that encouraged the players to be aggressive on defense and to try and grab the ball, as if they were trying to grab cookies.
"After the two losses, the players really started to buy into our system at practice. They realized each player has strengths and weaknesses and they started to work together in the system, and work together as a team," Kyle said.
The result? Team Cookies won their next 9 games, including the chapionship.
"It just was so awesome that they saw how working together and playing as a team paid off," Kyle said. "And it was really great for Kurtis and I. We got to know each other really well, and had a lot of fun with the kids."
Parent Kristin Kane said her son, Mike, really enjoyed his season.
"Mike loved having Coach Kyle and Coach Kurtis as his coaches this year. They brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to each practice and it showed in the improved play of the boys week after week," she said.
But perhaps player Mason Rubin, a seventh grader, summed it up best.
"I really had a great experience playing on this team. The coaches were always so positive toward each player and I really hope they continue to coach because I would love to be on their team again," he said.