- May 17, 2023
Referee Lamar Thomasson provides some advice to a free-throw shooter. After the player makes his shot, Thomasson tells him, “Good job.”
It may seem unusual for a ref to coach kids during a youth-league basketball game, but Winnerz Circle is not your typical youth league.
“It's natural to coach them sometimes, make sure they do it the right way,” Thomasson said.
Winnerz Circle is a non-profit sports organization run by husband and wife Cordell and Sharell Arneaud. They came up with the idea three or four years ago, and launched it last February.
One year later, growing through word of mouth, Winnerz Circle has a co-ed basketball league that currently has 67 kids and holds its games and practices at Buddy Taylor Middle School; a track and field club with about 46 kids; a skills-and-drills volleyball club; and basketball and flag football travel teams.
“We’re trying to offer kids exposure outside of Flagler County, and we also want to develop kids that are not on that level yet,” Cordell Arneaud said. “Our main thing is development.”
The Arneauds have six children of their own, ages 1 to 12. Cordell is from Jacksonville, where he played basketball in high school. Sharell is from Fort Lauderdale, where she ran track.
Cordell Arneaud said he began coaching his son five or six years ago when they moved to Palm Coast. But he felt that a lot of the talent in the county wasn't being developed, and other parents began asking him about starting a league.
“One of the issues was a lot of families were taking their kids out of the county,” Sharell Arneaud said. “We come from bigger cities where there are more competitive opportunities. For example, we didn't have a full track and field program here where my 5-year-old can compete in shot put.”
“We’re trying to offer kids exposure outside of Flagler County, and we also want to develop kids that are not on that level yet. Our main thing is development.”
Winnerz Circle took five flag football travel teams to a Tampa tournament last month, and the 10-and-under team won the championship in its division. Now they have been invited to a tournament in Arlington, Texas, Cordell Arneaud said.
They are planning their first travel-team track meet for grades K to 8 on March 12. They are also planning local mini-meets.
“(The Arneauds) are great with the kids,” said Bobby Bossardet, Flagler Schools assistant superintendent, whose two children participate in Winnerz Circle programs.
Winnerz Circle belongs to AAU, USA Track & Field and Jr. NBA.
The popularity of their programs caught them by surprise, Sharell Arneaud said.
“Our goal was to have a small basketball league, playing 3-on-3 halfcourt,” she said. “But we had more registrations than anticipated, so we’re doing 3-on-3 for the 7-and under kids and 4-on-4 fullcourt for the older kids.”
Finding time is difficult. They both have full-time jobs. Sharell is a licensed clinical social worker and works for the school district. Cordell does home inspections. The youth sports endeavor is a labor of love.
“We work in the morning and play at night,” Cordell Arneaud said.