Let’s play ball

Regina Blanchard had a vision to help the kids.

And, that vision can be seen Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in Steubenville.

The program – Let’s Play Ball – begins at 5:30 p.m. on those days and Blanchard wants kids off the streets and into the gym where they can play ball in a structured environment and be mentored.

But, more important, she wants them off the streets.

Bob Platt, Larry Neptune and others are volunteering their time to help these kids and it starts at age 6.

She is always looking for more men to step up and be a leader to these kids.

This is not just a summer thing.

Blanchard’s vision is for this to go year-round in an attempt to give kids the structure and commitment to do something other than be on the streets.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

Our job as adults is to train children.

We teach and they follow.

Children will follow just about anybody they look up to.

That will range from parents to coaches to teachers to preachers to drug dealers and anywhere in between.

Whether it is Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21, Psalm 78:4 or Isaiah 38:19, to name a few, God has commanded us to teach children.

And, teaching children through sports, especially basketball, is something all men can do.

Why basketball?

All you need is a ball and a place to play.

Children can learn teamwork and communication through basketball rather quickly.

You learn real quickly how important communication is when you unknowingly run into a screen.

Those hurt.

This is your invitation to help the future.

Guide them.

Mentor them

Teach them.

Love them.

Help them.

Is the kid who whines about lack of playing time the same kid who whines about lack of homework?

Darren Tracy wrote a column about kids and parents in sports – A parent’s guide to dealing with your high school athlete.

It’s rather good and I suggest parents read it with their children at www.examiner.com.

Here are his 12 headers with my twist.

1. Grades – With colleges and universities raising their academic standards on a daily basis and about 3 percent to 6 percent of all high school athletes continuing their athletics in college, grades are far more important than athletics. You just don’t magically find great study habits in college.

2. The days of “trophies for everyone” are over – This isn’t T-ball. Every child does not and cannot play all the time. We parents never know what happens during practice and please don’t think your child is coming home and telling you the absolute truth. Disappointments are OK.

3. Don’t be afraid of demanding coaches – Kids handle demanding coaches far better than adults. I know there is a line coaches cannot and should never cross. But, being a demanding coach is OK. Besides, what happens in college when your child has three term papers and a midterm due the same week and that midterm is one-third of his or her grade. Quitting is not an option.

4. The coach is the coach – Don’t be another chef in the kitchen. Never have roasted coach over the dinner table. Simple question to ask: Would you like it if coaches questioned your parenting abilities in front of everyone?

6. High school sports are serious, but it isn’t the biggest deal in the world – The child is playing, not you. Every player on every team wants to go undefeated. Those seasons are extremely rare. There will be disappointments. Do not be there to catch them when they fall. Be there to help them up.

6. Keep your expectations realistic – Sitting the bench will not kill your child’s chances at a scholarship. Besides, do they want the scholarship, or do you? Waiting your turn to be the stopper in the rotation is just fine. Just because that eighth-grade football team went undefeated, please do not compare that when they become seniors. Other teams and players actually do get better, too.

7. Be realistic about your child’s ability – Not every kid is going to a Division I school. Not every kid wants to play in college. Many kids are happy playing intramurals in college. Not every kid wants you to say something about the game on the ride home. In fact, they prefer you keep it zipped about the game.

8. Stay out of the way, except for one situation – Quitting is not an option. If your child wants to play basketball, but spends the summers in the basement playing NBA Street Ball on the XBox, please do not let them quit the team for lack of playing time. Encourage them, but it is their choice how much they want to work. They want to play more, they work harder.

9. Don’t approach the coach with questions, have your child do it – Athletes have to be able to walk up to a coach and ask simple questions because those same athletes will eventually have to talk to bosses, professors and maybe recruiters. And, just because you, the adult, is not happy with the playing time of your child, does not mean the child is unhappy with it. Coaches should never talk to parents until the kid has talked to the coach first.

10. Know the difference between pain and injury – Kids will play with pain. It happens. It’s sports. I have a simple rule for my son when is playing – if you are hurt, get up, if you are injured, stay down. He stayed down when he tore his ACL in November. It is painful going through rehab. He is going to be pushed hard during rehab, but he still has to mow the grass.

11. Behave yourself during the game – do not embarrass your child. Keep your mouths shut about other players because you sure don’t want to hear other parents/adults talking about your child. Have class. Have dignity. Be humble. If you cannot do that, stay home.

12. Savor every moment – Before you know it, your child will be registering for college classes after graduation. Enjoy the ride.

Also …

13. Social media – If you do not monitor what your child puts on social media, you really should. It is known that college recruiters are monitoring what kids they want to recruit are putting on social media and those same college recruiters have stopped recruiting kids because of what they have posted. But, even without recruiters in the fold, be aware of what your child is doing.

14. Last kid off the bench – Ask your child if they would rather be the last person off the bench or not to have made the team.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com)