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Attending Wayman’s Lightning Youth Basketball state tournament in Oklahoma City last month was quite an experience.
Elementary aged athletes from around the state converged on the Santa Fe Family Life Center to compete for two days on three full size courts in boys and girls divisions of a program started by the Christian Basketball Youth Association (CBYA) and sponsored by Access Sports.
That’s the group also involved with the Wayman Tisdale Award given annually to the nation’s top collegiate freshman basketball player. It’s a solid program, one with good values. It honors the legacy of Tisdale, the former University of Oklahoma star, Olympian, NBA veteran, accomplished jazz musician and all-round good guy who died of cancer far too early. It “finds a way for all kids to play!” It combines a positive environment with sound teaching of the sport’s fundamentals. And it encourages a parental code of conduct that focuses on kids and their development. Thirteen Oklahoma communities – including Duncan – took part in the 2012 -13 season that features league play in the respective communities and was highlighted by the state tournament in Oklahoma City.
And, for me, it posed the question. Why don’t we host an event like that? Our Simmons Center is easily the equal of the Santa Fe complex. Our two full courts would provide a nice base location with use of the Duncan Middle School gym as a third modern facility. Eight-team brackets, four age-groups and two divisions would create the possibility of 64 teams or 640 participants in a double-elimination format.
Add a couple of coaches per team (128), parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters and you likely have a gathering easily in excess of 1,000 people.
Or a potential economic development success story. Figure an entry fee for teams and an admission price for each tournament session. Include a concession stand at the game sites. Create a commemorative T-shirt or tournament souvenirs. Suggest restaurants for pre- and post-game meals. Identify movies, museums, parks and stores as time-killing between-game adventures.
Note a growing list of motels for the youthful excitement of an overnight stay. And add the necessary gallons of gas for transportation home. I couldn’t help but think it would be a great opportunity to show off the Simmons center, to bring people to Duncan and to generate monies for the Simmons Center or an ambitious local club’s special project. Which made me think … The peak period for Abe Raizen Park is upon us. Play in the Chisholm Trail Soccer Association started Saturday and the Duncan Youth Baseball Club activity isn’t far behind. It would have been nice to have the 150 additional parking spots available in the lot just south of the soccer field, but hopefully plans are complete, softening shrubs and trees will be included and the expansion will soon occur.
Never doubt the blessing Abe Raizen Park has been for our youngsters since 1984 or the appreciation owed our city for maintaining it, but remember, too, the aging process is difficult for so active an area. Modernizing the park, upgrading concession and restroom facilities, improving the grass cover, adding useful ancillary features like batting cages and covered shelters, updating the signage, reducing the reliance on parental workdays, repairing and relocating scoreboards, adjusting seating areas, installing a huge American flag and adding foliage to create a true park-like setting are improvements that would add a distinct freshness. Let’s hope priorities can shift into that direction. Which made me think … Is it time to revisit the past? Decades ago, a city-run community services department oversaw all activities linked to youth and adult recreation programs.
The department not only coordinated development and maintenances of all facilities and grounds, but also handled what is now association or league responsibilities, including things like assignment of players, fees, equipment and its equitable distribution, coordination of facility use, scheduling, coaches’ and coaching clinics, instruction, sportsmanship, safety, grievances and codes of ethics for participants and parents. It had final say in all matters, striving for best-possible programs and ensuring uniformity and consistency. It worked well, ultimately falling victim, as I recall, to a tight budget and declining revenues. That philosophy creates today’s final question … Aren’t communities better served by a management plan that identifies community necessities, needs and goals and seeks to fund them rather than one that suggests spending all monies until we run out? The good news here is we have good people and good thinkers in key places, but an occasional nudge or a few questions might turn good into great.
And wouldn’t that be nice?
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