Local coach and McFarland High School alumna Alyssa Medina introduced her youth basketball program in 2015. The program, named McFarland Madness, serves second-grade through high school students.
McFarland Madness focuses on girl’s basketball, but boy teams have formed in the past, and hopefully will in the future. McFarland is a rural community that does not offer many youth sports programs, compared to a city like Bakersfield, where they are prevalent. Because of this, McFarland High School and McFarland Junior High School athletes struggle to compete, as they have just recently picked up a ball in their freshmen year.
This changed when Medina took it upon herself to help not only the community but the youth of McFarland. Medina first recruited and united the future athletes of McFarland in 2015. Because of Medina’s actions, McFarland has a bright future in basketball.
“My love for my community and the want to see students from my community thrive is my purpose. I want my players to have opportunities they might not be aware of and expose them to more than they get in a small town. We have had a few previous Madness players play for college, and three are currently playing for four-year universities,” Medina stated.
Medina encourages other mentors to serve for the right reasons, not for personal gain. The organization demonstrated success when McFarland’s Varsity Girl’s Basketball Team went to the CIF Division III Girls’ Basketball Championship. That varsity team was able to compete at the state level, because of their experience in McFarland Madness. Julie Hernandez was a part of that team and she also was a key player in the McFarland Madness organization.
“Being a part of the program was a huge benefit for me because being from a small town, it was difficult to have those opportunities. Others from bigger cities have more organizations that are accessible for extra training and more exposure. Thanks to this program we were able to get that basketball experience and dedication to where it just made our game better. This program also helped me with staying out of trouble and building connections with the McFarland community,” explained Hernandez.
Not only did McFarland Madness benefit Hernandez in High School, but also at the collegiate level of play. After attending and playing at Bakersfield College, Hernandez took her talents to New England College, a private college in New Hampshire.
“Some main attributes I have gained from the organization were respect, resilience, and dedication. When I was part of the program, I experienced life lessons like teamwork and working hard to get what I want, especially since we got to experience competing teams from other counties. The organization helped me in both my high school career and now college,” said Hernandez. “In high school, it helped by keeping us united and learning how to play with each other, which was an overall successful journey, built with memorable memories and sisterhood. Our relationship between us was so strong, four of us decided to continue our college basketball journey together. If it wasn’t for the girls I don’t know if I would have had the courage to continue on.”
As a teacher and coach, Medina understands the importance of youth when she said, “Youth sports are important because they teach players valuable life lessons. With the right coach and mentoring, youth sports can give students opportunities in different parts of their life. Seeing the growth in the players is truly the most rewarding.”
Hernandez was joined by another product of McFarland Madness, Kathy Rodriguez, who is also set on attending New England College to play Basketball. The third student attending a four-year college after McFarland Madness is Angie Gonzalez, a great pickup for the University of LaVerne.
Shari Gonzales, McFarland High School’s athletic director, also added: “Alyssa Medina runs a great feeder program that has helped the high school program advance each year. Without the feeder program, we definitely wouldn’t have the caliber of athletes that we have playing. Alyssa Medina’s energy and excitement with the sport brings more kids into the program which is beneficial. As kids age and get older, they tend to lose interest in things and if they have that excitement from the coach and everyone involved, then they tend to stay involved longer.”