Winter 2023 The Hammontonian 020123 The Hammontonian | Page 11

Sports are important in Hammonton . They help form the bond that exists between many who have lived their entire lives in the town and serve as a common connection for those who are newcomers to the area .
If you ’ ve grown up in Hammonton , there ’ s a better chance than not that you ’ ve been involved in one way or another with sports . For most , that connection begins at the youth level ,


where the town has long had some of the best organizations for developing and teaching young athletes .
That tradition of strong youth sports organizations began in the 1940s with the Hammonton Little
League , the first league in the nation outside of Pennsylvania . It continued in the 1960s with the Hammonton Hawks , one of the top youth football organizations in the region .
As the sport of soccer grew in the 1980s and 1990s , groups such as the Hammonton Youth Soccer Association became more popular and have grown into successful options for young athletes .
On the basketball court , the youth of Hammonton have been served well for more than four decades by the Hammonton Bulldogs .
The Bulldogs were founded in 1979 by a group of basketball enthusiasts led by Don Staiger . Staiger grew up in Egg Harbor City and was an outstanding athlete at Oakcrest High School . Staiger worked at White Hall Labs in town , and eventually moved to Hammonton . Wanting to share his passion for basketball , he began the Bulldogs as a way to teach local athletes the game and give them an opportunity to play competitive games .
Beginning with clinics and local games , the Bulldogs continued to grow over the next 40 years and today the organization supports clinics , a local recreation league and travel teams for boys and girls from kindergarten through eighth grade .
“ He [ Staiger ] got everyone interested in basketball . He coached every grade . It was exciting to have it grow into what it is now ,” Ryan Staiger , Don ’ s youngest son said .
All four of Staiger ’ s sons have been involved with the Bulldogs at one time or another . Ryan and his brother Brent , currently help run clinics for Hammonton ’ s youngest players .
“ We learned basketball from our dad . He loved to coach and teach and it ’ s important for us to keep passing that on ,” Brent Staiger said .
While the Staiger brothers focus on teaching the game , they also know

Bulldogs Basketball is a youth sports tradition

it ’ s important to make the game fun for younger players .
“ Obviously , we want them to learn , but with little kids , you have to keep them engaged , so we try to make it as fun an experience as possible ,” Ryan Staiger said .
Ryan Staiger is the head girls basketball coach at St . Joseph Academy , and one of his colleagues at the school is Paul Rodio , the boys coach .
“ I learned a lot from playing with the Bulldogs ,” Rodio said .
“ Having my dad [ St . Augustine Prep coach Paul Rodio ] be a coach got me interested in basketball , but I also was able to work on my skills when I played with the Bulldogs in middle school ,” Rodio said .
Kevin Fricke , the current president of the Bulldogs organization , played for Hammonton as a youngster and also coaches one of the travel teams .
“ We have a long history of teaching basketball to kids in Hammonton and
See BULLDOGS , P . 12

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