In the game of basketball and the game of life running is for the youngsters

March 08, 1997|By ROB KASPER

ANOTHER GYM season is winding down. This is the season running from November to March when kids sweat and parents sit in uncomfortable seats watching their offspring play basketball. For folks who travel in the lofty world of high school and college championships, the gym season can last a few more weeks. But for most of us commoners, the season ended recently with the ritual presentation of trophies, the eating of pizza at parties, and the exchange of "see ya's."

Last Saturday, as I drove around town shuttling my kids to the last of their school and recreation league gym obligations, I felt a variety of end-of-the-season emotions. One of the main ones was a sense of relief.

This was one Saturday morning I could sleep in. For once, I didn't have to rise and shine and hustle to a gym to coach my kid's basketball team. The team of 11- to 12-year-old boys that I coached had been eliminated in earlier rounds of the Towsontowne Recreational League tournament. The only remaining duty was to show up after the championship game between the mighty Red and Purple teams, so-called because of the color of their T-shirts. After the game, our team, along with the other also-rans, would pick up trophies honoring a season of sweat and smiles.

It turned out I was too relaxed in my new Saturday morning routine. By the time I showed up at the gym of the Carver Center for Arts and Technology, the champs had already been crowned. The Red team coached by Jerry Shifflett and Frank Turlington had defeated the Purple team coached by John Stout, Angel Mata and Jack Tranter. Coaches of the other teams, Bob Smith, Chuck Warns, Rod Petrik, Ed Cohn, Cassie Andrzejewski, Eric Dana and my co-coach, Dave Baird had already picked up trophies for their kids.

Another championship game, between the top teams of a girls league was under way. This gym floor was no place for reflection. You played your game and got off the court, making way for the next contestants.

Later I found some reflective notes on gym life in an essay by Rena Diana in Spiritus, a magazine published by St. Paul's School for Girls where Diana is head of the middle school.

The gym, she observed, is a place where confidence and the sheer joy of rigorous physical exercise can be discovered. It is a place where risks are taken, where teamwork is taught. And, she noted, for parents who sit in the bleachers and talk to one another, the gym can be a good source of information about school life.

I know this. You get more information about what is going on in school by talking to parents on the gym sidelines than you do by trying to pry information out of your kids at the supper table.

Usually, when I walk into a gym I move toward the sidelines. The school gym floor, I figure, is a youth-only zone. Often I climb to the top row of the bleachers. That is where you tend to find the veteran parents. They have learned through experience that, unlike other spots in the seats, if you sit in the top row of the bleachers, you can lean against the wall and get support for your aching back.

Last Friday night, however, in the finale of gym season for our family, I ventured onto a school gym floor. Instead of being a gym supervisor, an adult secure on the sidelines, who tells kids what they should be doing, I became a participant. One of my sons signed me up for a father-son basketball tournament at the middle school of St. Paul's School.

I spent about four hours chasing boys up and down the basketball courts. The idea of pairing up teams composed of two boys and their dads came from some middle school moms. The moms did a good job organizing the event, but I must point out they got to sit and watch the proceedings. The dads had to huff and puff.

It worked out pretty well. Most of the boys raced up and down the court, most of the dads followed at a measured pace. Fortunately, the dad I was teamed up with, Joe Ciattei, was both a skilled basketball player and a believer in the philosophy that dads don't run, kids do. This strategy of minimum movement allowed us to make it through the evening with most of our pride and body parts intact.

But it was a long night. Sometime around 11 o'clock, when it came time to play the championship game, the dads were more than willing to reconfigure the teams and let only the kids play. The kids scampered, the dads rested, another gym season ended, with a gasp.

Pub Date: 3/08/97

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