COME OUT AND PLAY
(Fifth installment on the State of Youth Basketball)
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York during the 1970′s and 1980′s we played basketball all over the city.
Every outdoor court we went to there was always a crowd of ball players. We walked, we rode our bikes, we took the train, hopped on the bus and one thing was certain, we never got a ride in a car from our parents.
You showed up, walked through the entrance of the court, looked around at the comp and asked, “who’s got next?”
If you were lucky enough to get picked by someone and get on the court, you had better win or you had a long wait for the next game. If you showed up with 5 guys, you waited your turn. I recall showing up to a court and a couple of my friends and I were turned down by someone who had next. We didn’t get mad, we waited our turn and wound up smacking everyone the rest of the night. (Pick-up ball 101: When you have next, always accept someone’s request to put them on your team, don’t dis’ anyone)
West 4th street, Manhattan Beach, East 5th street, Tillary Park, Holy Name schoolyard, were a few courts we played on any day of the week, and at any time of the day. During the summer, we’d spend all day on the court.
I once read something from the great Bob Hurley Sr., boys head basketball coach at Saint Anthony’s high school in Jersey City, New Jersey. Hurley said when his sons Danny and Bobby Jr. were young he would drive them to another part of Jersey City, drop them off at a court and leave them there to play…all day.
Clarence Gaines Jr., son of the late, great Clarence ‘Big House’ Gaines Sr. passed along a story to me last week about his son and going to a park to play ball. “Do kids go to the playground and play pickup anymore? My son is 11 and doesn’t do it. Wish I could just find a place to take him and leave him for 3 hours to experience free play and pickup basketball. This would be better than any camp.”
Gaines and Hurley think alike.
Jim Boone, men’s head basketball coach at Tusculum College said, “Today’s parents really try to shelter their kids, they do not allow them to go through the normal bumps and bruises of growing-up.”
I have discussions with friends on a daily basis about how our world has changed in terms of child safety. I often wonder if there are more crazies out in society today compared to back in the 70′s or is just that today we have more media outlets (plus the internet) and we learn more about these deviant critters? Are we as parents more protective than our parents? I don’t know, you tell me.
“I was in Laguna Hills for a soccer tourney. Beautiful location. Got there at 9:30AM. Last game ended at 3:30PM. Beautiful outdoor basketball courts – one full court – two wonderful half courts. Great sunny day. Not a soul on the basketball court the entire time I was there. What a waste.” Said Gaines.
Again, great point, what a waste. Where is everyone?
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