SAUK RAPIDS -- The Sauk Rapids Storm Magicians held their first practice today at the Mississippi Height Elementary School.

The Magicians opened up their fifth year with over 100 children from the area came out to learn ball-handling and shooting skills.

Magicians coach Larry Stracke says the program is a fun way for kids to learn the fundamentals of basketball.

"If you tell [kids] that we're going to work on 'skills and drills', that doesn't sound like much fun, but if you tell them you're going to work on 'basketball tricks', they love that," Stracke says.

The program is meant to increase interest in the sport as well as providing a fun way for kids to stay active in the cold weather months.

Several former Magicians, such as fourth-graders Ethan and Mason, come back as part of the REACH program (Responsible Educated Athletes Can Help).

"We usually shoot baskets and stuff, and then we do different kinds of drills - dribbling and shooting," Mason says.

"It's really fun."

Stracke says the REACH Athletes' assistance help is greatly appreciated.

"It's a neat aspect of the program," Stracke says.

"They know all the tricks that we're doing and it also provides opportunities for them to be leaders within the program."

After a number of practices, the Magicians display their skills at halftime performances at area high school and college games.

Stracke, a retired middle school principal, says getting to work with kids is what makes it worth while.

"It's kind of the hook for me - I love to stay engaged with [kids] so I really enjoy it, it's been fun," Stracke says.

The Magicians are open to boys and girls from Kindergarten through 2nd grade and goes until mid-December.

Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON