December 6, 2021 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Former rivals give back with youth girls’ basketball program

Growing up, Andrea Flenniken was a Spartan.


Flenniken graduated from St. Joseph-Ogden High School in 1996 and played girls’ basketball for the Spartans.


“I grew up loving basketball,” Flenniken said.


Now Flenniken, who currently lives in Pesotum, is helping young girls learn to cherish the sport she holds with great affection.


How? By starting a travel basketball team for area girls.


Three years ago she formed Team Torment. At the time the team was for fifth graders. Now there are teams for girls in grades four through seventh.


“At least a couple times a week we are getting inquiries regarding when the next set of tryouts will be,” Flenniken said. “We are anticipating being bigger next year.”


Flenniken was comfortable doing work behind the scenes, but she wanted to find the best coach possible.


She found her in Heather Craven, who graduated from Unity in 1996.
Craven, from Tolono, has coached girls basketball for years.

Despite being rivals in high school, Flenniken knew she was the right woman for the job.


“There weren’t any teams around here for young adults, especially females,” Craven said. “I didn’t have this opportunity growing up.”


When Flenniken approached her, Craven was originally hesitant but was eventually won over when Flenniken promised Craven could focus her attention on the coaching aspect.


And she has.


Craven, who played basketball at Danville Area Community College, is working on building the girls’ understanding of basketball fundamentals in a safe and disciplined environment.


“I love seeing kids do something they couldn’t do before,” she said. “Sometimes it takes a month or six months, but then you see a lightbulb go off in their head.”


Sixth-grader Katelyn Gorrell said joining the team has improved her basketball skills, something she credits Craven for.


“She pushes us hard,” she said. “But if they go easy on you, you aren’t going to learn anything.”


Gorrell’s mom, Cheri, said that Katelyn’s skills have improved, as has her sportsmanship.


Cheri said the team has taught her daughter that everyone on a team matters and every one counts.


“You need to build on that to improve on the team as well,” she said.


The team is another full-time job for Flenniken and Craven.

Flenniken said she often puts in 30 to 40 hours a week of work on the team and Craven is at practice multiple nights each week with all the teams.


But they both feel the hard work is worth it because they know how important the team is to the girls and their futures.


Flenniken said there is research that says girls that participate in multiple sports at a young age have better careers and go further in life. Plus, the team offers the girls friendships they may not otherwise form.


Craven said watching girls from different schools come together and form friendships is one of the best parts of the team.


The team includes girls from schools in St. Joseph, Champaign, Rossville, Monticello, Georgetown, Shiloh, Tuscola, Tolono, Mahomet and Catlin.


Flenniken said the team also helps the girls learn how to win as well as teaching them about work ethic and drive.


“The ability to never give up is something I have taken with me even in my nursing career,” Flenniken said. ‘There is no laziness. You just do and never give up.”


Flenniken’s daughter, Raegen Stringer, competes on the seventh-grade team.


Stringer said that the team has instilled a strong work ethic in her.


“If you work hard it will pay off,” Stringer said.


That hard work has been on display as the girls have competed in numerous tournaments over the years.


Originally, they played in semi-local tournaments. Now, they have branched out to tournaments in Chicago and Indianapolis—trips the girls have enjoyed.


Addison Ray, who is on the seventh-grade team, said the trips to Chicago have been rewarding.


“They are tall, tall,” she said. “I like to have challenging moments in sports.”


Andrew Moore, whose daughter Katey Moore is on the seventh-grade team, agreed that the tournaments are enjoyable.


Moore said it allows him to spend quality time with his daughter.


“It is great,” he said. “We have fun and these days kids are busy. They want their gadgets and stuff, but this is time we have her all to ourselves.”


Flenniken said hearing the girls say they are having fun and enjoying being on the team brings her happiness because the entire purpose of the team was to allow the athletes to have fun and enjoy the game.


“It’s about them,” she said.

Just the facts:
Raegen Stringer, Addison Ray, Katey Moore, Tayten Hunter, Addison Frick and Halle Brazelton were on the team during its first year and currently compete on the seventh grade team.

For more information visit http://teamtorment.com.

The team can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/teamtorment

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