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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rec sports wrecked in today’s world

There was an article in the Voices sections of The Spokesman-Review a couple of weeks ago about a recreational alternative for basketball players not good enough to make their high school teams.

This is the second year that Spokane Youth Sports Association is offering the program that has 11 teams and 78 players paying $75 a head for the opportunity to play.

The story made me think back to my good fortune years ago. We who were never of varsity caliber, but loved the game, were afforded numerous opportunities to get plenty of basketball playing time at little cost.

We had, like SYSA’s offering, evening intramural leagues. But they were in high school and possibly unique, run by basketball coaches who went above and beyond the call of duty after their practices ended. Jud Heathcote and the late Al Snyder coordinated and officiated the leagues. Freshmen and sophomores played once a week, juniors and seniors twice. They kept standings, picked players of the week and all-stars. At the end of the year there were playoffs and a championship game played during an assembly in front of the school student body. It didn’t cost us a cent.

On weekends we played on a Catholic Youth Organization high school church team that played in a league here in Spokane. Our coach, the late Ralph Collins, was from the Metaline Falls area. Each year he got us a game against either Ione or Metaline Falls (schools since merged to become Selkirk).

They not only hosted, but provided a community meal afterward. Here were guys who never played in high school getting to play in a high school varsity game.

I don’t know how much it cost, but suspect it wasn’t much. And it was fun because a volunteer coach cared. Recreational sports, as a result, became a lifetime avocation.

Contrast that to today where youth sports have become a cottage industry. I cringe when I think of the thousands of dollars spent by the time my three children completed their youth football, wrestling, baseball, AAU basketball, club volleyball, club softball and American Legion baseball careers.

Perhaps there is a correlation to the economic downturn, according to news accounts, that is threatening the very future of high school sports.

Some I’ve talked to feel such early over-organization also seems to have diminished desire for recreational play that we gravitated toward.

Change that mindset, participation proponent Ralph Collins would say were he alive. It might take a return to his altruism and methods of years past in order to keep athletics affordable and enjoyable. But if we do that, sports at every level need not be imperiled.

Change proposed

Twenty-two proposed amendments were reviewed during the WIAA Representative Assembly winter meeting earlier this week.

Among them was one to implement a shot clock for boys basketball.

Greater Spokane League secretary Randy Ryan wrote in an e-mail that two-thirds of coaches polled indicated they are in favor of a shot clock. The proposal offered three alternatives – either 30, 35 or 45 seconds.

Two other proposals of note were modified timing rules for basketball and football. In the former, the clock would be stopped only for timeouts and free throws once a lead reached 40 points. In football, when a team leads by 45 points, the clock would stop only for touchdowns and time outs.

Coaches honored

Area football coaches received District Coaches Awards during last weekend’s Washington state Football Coaches Association Conference in Bellevue.

Jim Wood from Freeman in District 7 and Rick Giampietri from Central Valley in District 8 were top head coaches. Tony Carter from Colfax and Steve Kent from CV were top assistant coaches. John Bartz from Lind-Ritzville and Ron Brooks from Shadle Park were top junior high/middle school (ninth grade) coaches.

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