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HLB© Background & History
While in the midst of interviewing for various college coaching positions, Higher Level Basketball founder, Coach Rob Raque, was asked by a friend to do some skill work with his son in late summer 2002. That began an odyssey that has blossomed into what is today Higher Level Basketball (HLB). HLB offers not only skill instruction, but also camps, clinics, teams, recruiting services, custom events and assistance for organizations and in 2008, the addition of web-based video instruction and sales, plus a gear line.
Coach Raque initially pursued HLB as a part-time side business, however given the strong interest that ensued throughout the first year, he decided in late 2003 to make HLB his full-time pursuit. The original focus was to offer individual instruction/skill coaching, summer basketball camps and recruiting services for players. During this time, HLB had about a dozen players taking skill lessons regularly.
The 2004 calendar year saw the first formal marketing and business plans for HLB. By late January of 2004, HLB boasted 18 players in instruction. The first marketing efforts were centered on grade and middle school players, especially those playing in the largest local league, the CSAA.
The efforts paid off, as by March 15th of 2004, the skill clientèle had grown to 43 players a 150% growth spurt. Instruction clientèle would grow to 50 by the last half of 2004. In addition, the spring of 2004 brought plans for the first set of HLB summer camps - designed and co-run by Coach Raque and Bob Valvano, for whom Raque had been an assistant at Bellarmine.
Another jolt in HLB's growth came after receiving virtually unending requests in the first quarter of 2006 from clients for team play. Coach Raque agreed to put together a pilot team program at that time. For that first year, there was to be one boys team and one girls team. However, no one was prepared for the level of interest that HLB would garner and the spring 2006 team season ended up with three boys and one girls team.
Since its inception in 2002, HLB has added additional programs and grown in each. The highlights of that growth:
Instruction has grown to an average of 50+ players per week in non-active seasons to over 100 per week in the active seasons, with over 300 packages sold per year. Private 1-on-1 and large group/team instruction have been added to the program.
Camps and Clinics have grown from just 2 weeks of boy’s summer day camps to a more intense focus on Specialty camps, such as our Summer Shooting & Position camps, and our annual multi-skill “Boot” camp. In addition, HLB now offers an annual Preseason Prep Program, Christmas break camps and specialized summer clinics to fit the specialties of its coaching staff. Also, we now have custom camps & clinics for other teams/organizations.
The Team Program, which started so modestly in 2006 has grown each year – growing to 10 teams in 2009, and then to our all-time high of 15 teams in 2015. The high school teams, which play traditional travel based AAU basketball, have played in dozens of tournaments across the region. Since 2008 when the first high school seniors that played at HLB started graduating, we have had 73 players go on to play college basketball at 31 schools in 14 states. Those players have garnered over $1.5 million in grants/aid for their schooling. During that same period, HLB has seen over 155 of its grade/middle school players go on to play high school ball.
A simple Website was added in 2006 to help disseminate information on HLB. That site, www.higherlevelbb.com is in the process in 2017 of being simplified to an information and marketing site and the development and launch of a more interactive, performance review site for parents/players – www.higherview.net – begins in 2017. That site will eventually be used for all player ratings, performance review/evaluation and for individual family information dissemination. It will be completed over the 2017-2019 calendar years.
HLB’s growth has also seen the addition of another ½ dozen skill instruction coaches plus over 10 additional team coaches. It has also seen the use of as many as 14 different gyms in any one year to increase our reach to all areas of the metro.
As we head into the future, Higher Level Basketball will continue to grow and adapt to the ever-changing environment of basketball and athletics to offer improvement and advancement for each player who seeks us out. This process will continue to include the ethical application of professional coaching techniques and training for all HLB staff.
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