Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My other passion...

I do love words and reading and writing (prose, poems, limericks, double dactyls, etc.) and language and linguistics...and of course epicaricacy.

However, I also love basketball. That's why this article bothered me so. When our 2 youngest were in junior high, they desperately wanted to play traveling basketball, and they were both cut from the team. Given that many, many kids were cut from the traveling team and there was great interest in community for the development of "B Teams," my husband and I took up that challenge. We developed the Winnetka Basketball Association (WBA). That took a lot of work. First, we needed gyms. The school district was refusing to give us any time, and the private gyms were way too expensive. So, we did a little investigating. Sure enough. In the evenings, on the weekends, we saw teachers and other groups playing in the gyms. So, through the freedom of information act, we asked for a schedule of their gyms. Suddenly, out of the blue, they told us we could rent their gyms for an reasonable $15/hour (Illinois politics goes way beyond Springfield!). Okay we had the gyms.

Now we had to get the kids (besides our 2), so we sent letters to the parents to see if they had any interest. Of course they did. We pencilled out a budget (rent, referees, scorekeepers, brochures cheaply done, coaches, etc.), and developed a brochure. We had to hire coaches, find referees (ours was a ripe 80, but he was good!), and get some high school gym rats to scorekeep for us ($12 per game). That was in 1995. We created a Board of Directors (interested parents and a few "advisors") and had frequent meetings, at least in the first few years. We developed a parent handbook (you must respect the calls!) and a coach handbook (you must play each child at least 4 minutes per game). We came up with a mission statement that was something like, "To give kids who don't make the park district's traveling team a chance to play traveling basketball." Eventually we even helped start a league of "second level" teams.

The teams are still alive and well. Indeed, I continue to be on the Board (as the treasurer), even though my kids are well out of junior high. We want to be sure the teams that we started stick to our mission. It is great to see such success. Last year some parents got a little out of hand at a game, criticizing the ref (nothing very serious), and the Board sent out a blast email to all parents, reminding them about our stand on being good role models for the players. This year 2 kids wanted to play on our team as well as another traveling team (they were great players, evidently), and we had an emergency Board meeting to discuss what to do. I reminded them of our mission, and the decision was made that those talented kids weren't able to to play with us because they had an opportunity to play elsewhere. We wanted to give the opportunity to others who wouldn't be able to play. can imagine my passion about the situation at Dallas Academy. The Covenant girls team (yes, they are a Christian school, though they obviously don't follow Christian principles) crushed Dallas Academy...100 to 0, for heaven's sake. What was the coach thinking??? More importantly, though, how about the Covenant parents? Or even the players? What kind of people were they? One Covenant player had 48 points! The "hapless dribblers" (as the Trib calls them) from Dallas Academy were a team of kids with learning disabilities and hadn't won a game in 4 years. Now, I can understand not letting them win. But how about letting them make a basket?! Apparently the Dallas Academy players celebrated wildly when they almost made a basket, playing with all their hearts.

The Covenant coach was fired because he refused to apologize. That's fair. But the editorial didn't mention a thing about the parents, players or referees. I am so proud to think that we set up a team where that just wouldn't happen. It's in our handbooks and our Board monitors parental and team sportsmanship. To us, teamwork, working together, fairness, sportsmanship, and mutual respect are some of our goals. Apparently that's not the case at this Christian school.

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