Program Overview

What is SMYBB Shooting Stars Special Needs Basketball?

SMYBB Shooting Stars Special Needs Basketball was created as an inclusive program designed for children ages 5-22 with a variety of disabilities (including Autism, Down Syndrome and other physical and mental disabilities) to learn and enjoy the game of basketball in a fun, non-competitive environment.

SMYBB Shooting Stars Special Needs Basketball Mission

Our mission, just as it is with the other San Marcos Youth Basketball divisions, is for kids to have fun and learn the fundamentals of the game of basketball in a recreational, non-competitive environment. The idea is to teach the kids with special needs the game of basketball without the pressure you might see on other teams, to feel a sense of accomplishment, and of course, to have fun.

A Brief History and Our Program Today

SMYBB Shooting Stars Special Needs Basketball started its first season in January 2007 with 8 players, 10 High Schools buddies/volunteers and 4 coaches. We have enjoyed amazing growth and in our 9th season (2014-2015) we had 131 players, 200+ High School/Middle School Buddies/volunteers and 32 coaches. We are expecting to grow in our 10th season by another 10-15 players!

The program was started by Rick and Emmie Clark as a vehicle for their then 7 year old son Jacob to enjoy the game of basketball. They tried typical basketball, but the speed of the game and rules were too much for their highly functioning autistic son to handle. Having coached special needs soccer they set out to design a program that would make a difference for their son and other kids like him….and Shooting Stars was born.

What makes this program unique is that it gives a team of players and a defined group of buddies (some 1:1 and some floaters) a chance, over 9 weeks, to get to interact with each other in a way that may never otherwise present itself. The players get to be part of a team in an environment that promotes stability, social interaction and the repetition that special needs many times crave. The buddies get to spend time with a group of kids that, in a typical school environment, they may simply never get to be around socially. These buddies get to see that the special needs kids are fun to be around and true bonds of friendship are forged. We get to see the impact these kids have on each other every season when we have our “meet and greet”, which is the season opening event. Players and buddies that may not have seen each other since last season are all smiles and they pick up right where they left off!

About Our Program

History–How did it start, who are we and where are we today?

In October/November of 2006 Rick Clark (Shooting Stars Director) was coaching his sons Jacob (2nd grade) and Jonathan’s (1st grade) SMYBB Pee-Wee basketball team. Jacob had been diagnosed as Highly Functioning Autistic at age 3½ and loved to play basketball. Rick thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce him to the sport and, as a coach, be able, to some degree, to help Jacob adjust to a recreationally competitive game. After about 3 weeks of practice, it became apparent that that this brand of basketball was going to be overwhelming for Jacob. Although he could shoot the basketball really well, the speed and competitiveness of the game were just too much. Rick, along with his wife Emmie (Shooting Stars Coordinator) sat down one night to decide what to do. Since Rick had coached Special Needs Soccer (AYSO VIP) and helped with Special Needs Baseball, they decided to contact SMYBB to see about starting a special needs group in the league.

Our request was very well received. I remember getting the call from Pat Moore (SMYBB President last year) while we were on vacation in Hawaii (we spent the rest of the vacation planning for what had to be done to get up and running when we got back). He said we had the support of the league and with the help of board members Maria Hoye and Kevin Kennedy, we were on our way. Because it was already into the SMYBB season, we had to put together the inaugural season very quickly. We decided on a January start and with 8 special needs kids, mostly from the VIP soccer team, 10 high school volunteers and 4 coaches, we had a wonderful first 8 game season! We have also received great support from Larry Thompson, who runs the Corky Smith Gymnasium (and other public sports facilities for the City of San Marcos) as well as the entire SMYBB board.

Because the first year was such a success, and with the lessons we learned from that experience, we started earlier the second year (2007-2008) and were there at the regular registration days for SMYBB Basketball. Within 6 weeks (August and September) we had 27 special needs kids, 36 volunteers and 12 coaches signed up! In fact, of the participants in year one, only one player (who is now playing on a SMYBB Pee-Wee team) and one buddy (who went away to college) did not return for year 2.

In our third season (2008-2009) we grew to 47 players, 65 buddies/volunteers and 20 coaches and have grown steadily since then to where we are now in Season 14 at 155 Players, 185 buddies/volunteers and 39 coaches!

Through the first 9 seasons the kids (as well as buddies and coaches) are having a great time! For the players, buddies and coaches, this is an experience that will stay with them for many years. There is just not much that compares to the look of joy on a special needs child’s face when he scores a basket…it’s like they won the super bowl.

Rick Clark also coaches and has coached other special needs sports including VIP Soccer (San Marcos AYSO), Miracle League of San Diego Baseball, SMYBB Shooting Stars Special Needs Basketball, Pop Warner Challenger Football and helps with a special needs Karate program at Orion Martial Arts in San Marcos.

Support for SMYBB Shooting Stars Special Needs Basketball

During our first 2 years, registration fees and sponsorship from Rick and Emmie Clark, supported Shooting Stars. In the last 6 seasons, we have been very fortunate to have garnered support from the local business community and have had a number of sponsors. As we grow, we continue to look for sponsorship support for this season and beyond. For information, please contact Rick Clark, Shooting Stars Director at 760 598-8090 (home) or 760 504-7242 (cell) or e-mail Donations can made to SMYBB for the Shooting Stars are tax deductible as SMYBB is a 501 c 3 non-profit group.

Weekly Game/Practice Format

We have one hour each Sunday during our season for our game and practice. For the first half-hour, we have the buddies work one-on-one or in small groups with the special needs players. In the practice portion, we work on the fundamentals of passing, dribbling and shooting…and fun. For the second half-hour, we play our game. In the game the buddies become the other team and there are also coaches on the court at all times to help facilitate the game. At the end of the game we have our snack time and have awards for “players of the game” (1 or 2 from each team).


We teach the players the fundamentals of basketball…including teamwork, as well as to dribble, pass and shoot. We also teach rules about traveling, double dribble, etc…, but very lightly enforce those rules. We, especially with the smaller players, only use bounce passes as it is less likely that someone will get hurt. All of the Shooting Stars players will play all or most of the game. The key is to keep the players active and moving. Our goal is to have one ball on the court during the game, but we determine what works best for each group as we progress through a bit of trial and error.

Buddy/Volunteers—Their Role

We have a buddy system for this program in which a high school/middle school student/volunteer/buddy is partnered with a special needs player, as much as possible, for the entire season. The buddy will support the player by working with him/her on the skills (passing, shooting, dribbling, etc) and guide him/her through the practices/games.

By volunteering, the buddies get an amazingly rewarding experience and earn credit towards their community service requirement for school.

The main role of the buddies is, just like the mission statement, to help the players have fun and learn the fundamentals of basketball. They will be acting as helpers and “coaches” for the practice part of our hour and as the opposing team for the second half.

We tell the buddies this will not look exactly like a regular basketball game. When the buddies are the opposing team, their job is still to help. We do this by playing “soft” on defense and offense. We ask the buddies to let the players score, even help them if need be. Our goal will be to have every player from the Shooting Stars have at least one basket per game. Another thing is that if there is a missed shot or errant pass, we ask that the buddies do their best to make sure that their player doesn’t get hit with the ball.

Our buddies have been exceptional in their patience and desire to help these special players. We are very fortunate to have such a committed group. These buddies and coaches will give up 9 Sundays this season to make our group a success.

Coaches—Their Role

The coaches oversee the activities on the court during the practice and game times. They are also available to any of the buddies or players to assist with issues or situations that may arise. We have coaches from a wide background, including coaches from typical basketball teams, students, special Olympics, special education teachers and parents and families of special needs children. Our coaches do an amazing job of making the games and practices fun and instructional!

Parents—Their Role

We try, as much as is possible, for parents to be able to do something with our program that they rarely get…a chance to sit on the sidelines and watch their child have a great time playing sports! This may not happen all of the time and they may have to jump in here and there, but hopefully they get to sit back and enjoy most of the time. We also have a handful of parents who are helping to coach their children’s respective teams.

Players—Their Role

The players role is simply, no matter what their “different ability” may be, to have a great time playing a game we all love in a social and engaging environment.


Shooting Stars Players come primarily from the North County area (San Marcos, Escondido, Vista, Carlsbad, Oceanside), but we have players from as far away Temecula and San Diego.

Shooting Stars Buddies and Coaches are also mostly local to North County and within a 15 mile radius of San Marcos.

How Do We Find Players

In our first season, we called a few of the families who had played soccer with us the previous season and had 8 that were interested in Basketball. From that first season, Shooting Stars has grown through word of mouth (primarily), through NCCSE (North County Consortium for Special Education), where Rick and Emmie were given an award in 2009 for working with Special Needs Kids and by getting the word out to players in the other sports we have coached (baseball, soccer, football and karate) as well as tremendous support from players and former players who participated in the typical San Marcos Youth Basketball programs. Once we have families in the Shooting Stars program, they are our greatest advocates. We also spread the word via e-mail to families who have asked to be notified and through Valerie’s List (a daily e-mail newsletter for special needs families).

How Do We Find Buddies and Coaches

We find coaches and buddies by relying on the students who have helped before bringing in their friends as well as families we know and contacting local schools. Coaches also come from the Special Olympics, from the regular SMYBB program and from parents of the players who wish to become involved.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Rick Clark, Shooting Stars Director at 760 806-1665 (office) or 760 504-7242 (cell) or e-mail You can also visit or