Meet John Doe: Rockford Heat girls’ basketball — just one of many local youth sports clubs

By Paul Gorski

I follow local arts and sports organizations to help promote the variety of activities in our community. As for musical talent, I encourage you to attend Cherry Valley Festival Days in downtown Cherry Valley, Aug. 24-26. The festival has a great music line-up featuring Rock Town Strangers, Trash 80’s, Kashmir, Red Neck Romeos, Big Daddy Woo Woo, Sweet Lucy, Sensations, Mojo Radio, Radio Stars, Mike and Joe, Roscoe, Band of the Lost, Miles Nielsen and more. Visit for more information.

Then, there are youth sports. We have many youth sports clubs locally, including the Rockford Heat girls’ basketball club. This club is a group of traveling girls’ basketball teams, high school and middle school, focused not only on competitive basketball, but on developing skills to be successful after high school. One of the Heat’s many goals is to prepare players for collegiate-level play.

Just recently, four Heat players — Samantha Lambrigtsen, Brandi Fier, Kayla Steward and Karley Gassman — were named to the U.S. Junior National Championships (USJN) Midwest Final All-Star team, this following strong finishes by all the Heat teams at the USJN summer Midwest finals. Congratulations to all. These events, and particularly the NCAA-certified events this September and October, allow these young women to showcase their skills before NCAA college scouts and coaches.

In preparation for these upcoming events, the Rockford Heat is having high school tryouts from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 26, at Keith Country Day School. John Penney, co-founder of the club, encourages anyone interested in the program to contact him at to pre-register or learn more about the group. Players making the team will participate in speed, strength and agility workouts in addition to intense fundamental skill instruction. Again, all of this in preparation for the upcoming NCAA-certified events. Middle school tryouts are scheduled for 5-7 p.m., Sept. 23, at Keith Country Day School.

When speaking with Penney about the Heat, he appears dedicated to creating these opportunities for these young women. He’s looking forward to players moving on to collegiate-level play, getting college degrees and leading successful lives. While he didn’t say it, it seems he has a passion for encouraging the players to rise above everyday challenges, develop a good work ethic and to plan for success. He undoubtedly shares this passion with co-founder Darrin Golden and fellow coaches Cary Proper, Chad Gassman, Greg Fiorucci, Joe Keller and Wendy Lambrigtsen.

I admire the dedication that the Heat players and coaches appear to have. I wish them the best of luck. We need more success stories like these, and I plan to bring these stories to you in future columns. Send me suggestions.

Reminder, the Heat high school tryouts are this weekend, 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 26, at Keith Country Day School, and the middle school tryouts will be from 5 to 7 p.m., Sept. 23, at Keith Country Day School. Follow the Heat at, on Facebook,, and Twitter at

Paul Gorski ( is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.

From the Aug. 22-28, 2012, issue

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