UPPER EAST SIDE — For kids who dream of being like Mike — or Kobe or LeBron — a new basketball facility featuring the latest in sports technology may be the ticket.
Fastbreak Sports, which has operated programs in schools and city parks for nearly a decade, opened a 10,000-square-foot sports center on the Upper East Side last month at the site of a former movie theater. The facility boasts a full-court gym and the same high-tech tools professional athletes use to improve their games.
Fastbreak’s founder Lonny Levine spent 25 years working in women’s clothing manufacturing before launching his dream business in 2006, booking space at Big Apple schools for basktball and football instruction. He noticed a gap in the market when his son began participating in local sports leagues in elementary school.
“There was a real lack of skill development,” he said. “Many coaches just seemed to be going through the motions.”
At Fastbreak, each class begins with drills and other ways to improve players' skills. The small coach-to-player ratio gives instructors a chance to identify errors and correct them before they become bad habits. Classes end with games designed to help players practice their new skills.
Now that Fastbreak has a permanent home, Levine has also been able to bring in high-tech teaching aids to help players take their game to the next level. For example, a specialized ball machine helps players work on their arc by tracking players' shooting sessions that are then downloaded to a computer for analysis.
Similarly, the facility uses a basketball contains sensors that measures the angle and depth of each shot and provides instant feedback on how to improve. Levine is also in the process of installing video service that breaks down and analyzes game tape.
He hopes these tools will help set Fastbreak apart from competitors.
“It opens it up to all levels, including professionals, to be able to come here and train,” he said. “When we get college players who come into work on their shooting and an 8-year-old sees that and thinks, 'Wow, I want to be there someday' — that’s great.”
Even with the high-tech tools now at his disposal, Levine said that the heart of the program is still great coaching by individuals.
Brad Harris, a father with three sons who have participated in Fastbreak’s classes and leagues, agreed.
“What’s nice about the program is that they reach each kid at their level and try to bring them to their potential,” he said. “Every coach we’ve ever dealt with here seems like a great person and a great teacher. That’s why we’ve stuck with it.”
A handful of parents felt so strongly about the program that they personally invested the $5 million Levine needed to transform the space from a theater into a sports center. Their investment seems to be paying off — as between 700 and 800 kids attend classes at the new facility, with the after-school and weekend programs already at 85 percent capacity, according to Fastbreak.
Levine, who grew up playing basketball on the playground at 84th Street and Fifth Avenue, can’t imagine anything better.
“I’ve always been a sports enthusiast,” he said. “This is my passion, and to be able to do this as my business has been a dream for me.”
Fastbreak Sports is located at 1629 First Avenue. Classes cost about $500 for a 10- to 12-week session.