While snow was falling last Saturday morning many athletic administrators were on the phone postponing scheduled basketball contests. With the wintry conditions, those looking for live basketball would be hard pressed to find a game in the greater Bangor area.
The white stuff falling from the sky didn’t stop the basketballs from bouncing for a group of first through third graders. The Bangor-Brewer YMCA league gathered at Bangor’s Vine Street School for a morning of friendly competition. The atmosphere in the cramped gym was a nice respite from the sometimes over-zealous and even toxic environments experienced in too many high school gyms these days.
The coaches of the two teams certainly have plenty of experience on the sidelines. Coaching one of the squads was John Bapst boys varsity basketball coach Rick Sinclair along with his assistant Dan O’Connell, who is also the head football coach at the Bangor-based school. Rick’s son Bryan, a first grader, plays on the team while Dan’s son Matt, also a third-grader competes. Bryan and Matt are regulars at John Bapst basketball games so in turn our team likes to support them.
On the opposing bench was Jason Harvey coaching his young charges. Harvey is currently the head baseball coach at Husson University and was a standout basketball player at Bucksport High School. The coaches dwarfed the young participants but the game certainly was not of the over-coached varsity seen in many gyms it was all about the youngsters on the floor. There were no elaborate schemes devised. This was about teaching the basic fundamentals of basketball.
It was refreshing to attend a game in which no one rode the officials. There was no second guessing of coaching. Everyone stayed positive. If a player knocked someone down they were quick to pick them up. It was basketball at its most basic level. Despite all the travels, lack of offensive spacing, which for a group of first through third graders really wasn’t all that bad, there was a beauty to the proceedings. By the way, I have witnessed god-awful spacing in many high school and college games this year.
If I had to describe the happenings from this snowy morning in one word it would be “joy”. There was a joy I saw that is lacking in many gymnasiums the further up you go. The youngsters were not inhibited by others expectations. They were simply there to enjoy the game of basketball in its purest form. It really was just a game they enjoyed playing with and against their friends.
As the morning came to an end, I couldn’t help but think what the future might hold for them. How many of these kids would still be involved in the game by the time they got to high school? How much of their joy would be tarnished by increased expectations? How many of the parents in attendance, who are now positive, will turn into crazed lunatics once their children reach a certain age?
While the games will get more competitive as the years go on, as they should, let’s hope everyone in attendance, players, coaches, and spectators, keep in mind what started their involvement in the game in the first place. Maybe it’s time we think back to those days so we can restore the joy in many gyms that seems to be lacking.