Athletics help build character to overcome adversity in all areas of life,” says Heather (Burge) Quella, co-founder of Integrity Hoops Academy. “Basketball, a team sport, teaches cooperation, listening, and selflessness.”
A San Pedro resident and former basketball player for Palos Verdes High School, Quella, along with her twin sister Heidi, were the inspiration behind the 2002 Disney Channel movie, Double Teamed. Going on to play for University of Virginia, the USA Women’s National Team, and the WNBA, Quella certainly knows a thing or two about shooting hoops.
After concluding her professional career, the Los Angeles Sportswalk of Famer channeled her love of the game to coaching, where she soon discovered a need to cultivate interest in youth basketball, especially for young girls. “Recreation leagues cannot offer enough time nor skilled coaching to build fundamentally sound players, both boys and girls,” describes Quella. “We want to spur on that desire to play, and offer the opportunity to grow and experience the outstanding coaching we received.” Quella, along with former WNBA marketing executive, Stacey Dengler, founded Integrity Hoops Academy, a youth basketball clinic for the South Bay area.
IHA provides fundamental skill work and consistent opportunity for improvement, with its goals being to develop and enhance boys’ and girls’ basketball skills, as well as character, through practice, precision, coaching, and of course, play. Beginning July 1 through August 12, these two-hour clinics will be held every Monday at Christ Lutheran Gymnasium, where Quella also works as a teacher and coach. Open to ages seven through 12, IHA is tailored to players with some former experience that want to develop their skills, and is a great supplement to current players looking to grow their talents on the court. Although there are no try-outs, the clinic’s unique approach allows for quality performance evaluation and assessment, as well as group and individual instruction. Players receive weekly “homework” assignments, as well as a tailor-made program to take home and practice at the end of their participation.
A key curriculum to IHA is based on legendary UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, which describes exemplary values in becoming both a good leader, as well as a good player. Quella explains IHA’s usage of Wooden’s philosophies, saying, “Both Stacey and I are particularly impressed [with Wooden], not only a 10-time NCAA champion coach in men’s basketball, but a grounded man from Indiana with strong character instilled in him by his father.” She elaborates specifically, saying, “In particular, we focus on John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed given to him by his father at his graduation from grammar school. Each session, we expand on one point of his creed, and encourage the participant to apply it to his/her life. He demonstrated through sports, that you can build a life of character, focusing on being the best person you can be each day. At IHA, we believe that as well, and want to share those life lessons through the practices and games.”
In addition to being a mother of three boys, Quella also has found purpose in sharing what she has learned over the years by inspiring a new generation of female players to work hard to achieve their athletic goals. “I have been coaching youth for over 30 years, and have worked with girls in San Pedro since 2002,” she describes. “Until founding IHA, coaching and teaching the game of basketball, as well as encouraging them to play the game, has been the main way to get them our there and try.”
Sometimes all it takes is that one coach to believe in you and help give you the guidance needed to breeze past that defense and score. With the integral coaching of Quella and IHA, young players are given an amazing opportunity to learn from the best. “I am honored to be a female role model [in basketball], and I am so grateful for the opportunities I had as a player when girls’ basketball was a budding sport,” says Quella. “I hope to instill the same lessons I was taught, giving back the positive experience in order to influence a girl out there who loves the game and wants to grow to a higher level of play.”