For me, sports have played an important role in my childhood development. My parents allowed me to participate in whatever sport that drew interest. Growing up prior to the 90s, you played the three majors –football, basketball and baseball.
Whether it was Pop Warner, Jerry West or Little League, we were fortunate to have organizations during those days that would give us an opportunity to play their respective sport. And there was an abundance of players playing as well. Competition was very high and the competitiveness to win or lose was important as it built character. Most importantly, we met new friends and had a lot of fun.
For Harrison County Sports, it was always interesting as (at that time) seven high schools competed in sports throughout the year. County rivals like Roosevelt-Wilson and Washington-Irving would battle on the gridiron, but now compete together as they formed Robert C Byrd 20-years ago. I compare our County competition back then to the Big-12 college conference. In football, Bridgeport mostly topped the rankings, but in basketball it was Liberty and baseball was strong at Lincoln. But, on any given day, any team could have been beat. Competition was strong in Harrison County.
And those players you met in youth sports were again your competitor in middle and high school sports. And back then, you only played with the kids in your neighborhood. You could not transfer to other teams or to schools or be evaluated and drafted. The only choice you had was to either go to your feeder school or to Notre Dame.
In Little League, for example, Fulk’s Sporting Good was dominated by kids that lived on the right side of 18th street, while those to the left compiled the North View Lion’s team. However, those squads would later collaborate to form Liberty Baseball.
I have met many friends through sports. And, to this day, many of the opponents I met in competition have turned out to be great friends. Mike McAllister, who I met in middle school, has been a great friend even to this day. Yes, we are not competing against each other, but we have maintained our friendship and even though he lives in the Romney area, we still keep in close contact. Ironically, we discuss our kids and the sports that they play.
I bring up this discussion about how sports can form friendships because Parks and Recreation operates a few leagues during the winter months. We have an instructional youth basketball league, a challenge basketball league for special population athletes, and a high school recreation league. All venues have different focus for the players.
In youth basketball, kids in grades Kindergarten through 5th grade play instructional basketball through non-competitive leagues. The mission is to expose children who show interest in the league but are unsure on whether to play competitively.
For the challenge league, any special needs person under 21-years of age can participate in program. The league plays in Shinnston and the focus is for activities for the special population while the high school competition plays by the rules described by the National Federation of High School sports, and is designated to athletes who are not playing for their respective schools.
The leagues have been very successful in the past and the participation aspect definitely builds the social skills necessary in today’s world. That is why it is a good idea to participate in sports. Who knows, you child might even meet a friend for life.