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Youth basketball program could end for FLW, SR, Waynesville
WAYNESVILLE/ST. ROBERT, Mo. (Nov. 20, 2008) — The recreational youth basketball program for Fort Leonard Wood, Waynesville and St. Robert could be on its last legs.

At Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Community Recreation Board, Recreation Coordinator Joanne Bishop said basketball numbers have dramatically dropped and many age groups don’t have enough teams to effectively hold a recreational basketball season.

“It’s really, really disheartening because it’s been just like pulling teeth to get kids involved in our program,” Bishop said. “It’s just been a nightmare.”

Despite aggressive publicity efforts, nowhere near enough people signed up at the older ages to make a viable recreational sports program. Bishop said for the combined second and third grade league, enough players signed up to make two St. Robert and Waynesville teams and four Fort Leonard Wood teams.

For fourth grade, one civilian team and two Fort Leonard Wood signed up. For fifth grade, two civilian teams and one post team signed up. For sixth grade, one team each signed up from the civilian and military community and for the combined seventh and eighth grade age groups, one civilian and two military teams signed up.

Two alternative basketball programs exist: The Ozark Youth Sports League, which is coordinated by Linda Helton of Crocker, and the Upward Bound program sponsored by Westside Baptist Church.

Recreation Board chairman Charles Kristek said OYSL has grown considerably under Helton’s leadership.

“They’re coming from as far as Salem, and I believe there is even a West Plains team,” Kristek said. “They are looking for multiple levels of skill to participate, and I know this being a recreational league that is important to us, but this is a recreational environment. The competitive environment is over at Springfield at the courts they have there.”

Bishop said she’s not willing to do basketball signups again.

“I don’t have anybody so apparently that is where they are going, because they are not here,” Bishop said.

Bishop said it’s probably possible to save the season for second and third graders because they have six teams, but there’s no way to save the sixth grade program and she’s referred the teams to OYSL.

Saving the season for fourth graders and fifth graders depends on cooperation from Fort Leonard Wood, Bishop said. Waynesville, St. Robert and Fort Leonard Wood teams play each other, but there are a total of only three teams each for each grade. Bishop said she’s willing to let fourth-grade teams play against fifth-grade teams because there’s not a major skill difference between the two ages, but said Bob Baier, Fort Leonard Wood’s sports director, may not agree for his teams.

Kristek agreed that there’s no point in having only three teams play against each other all season long and said having Fort Leonard Wood, Waynesville and St. Robert teams play in OYSL may be much better.

“Our numbers, I guarantee you, would come back, because the concerns I heard was there were not enough teams because they were playing the same people over and over again,” Kristek said. “If you have a league where you are playing 8 to 10 teams, you are playing somebody new and you’re getting exposed to different skills.”

Kristek asked board members for their input on trying to involve the OYSL teams in the Community Recreation Board’s programs and suggested inviting Helton to a future meeting to show her the existing code of ethics.

“I’m not trying to bring other communities into the fold right now, but someday10 years from now, this could be not just the Waynesville-St. Robert Community Recreation Board but the Pulaski County Community Recreation Board,” Kristek said.

Kristek noted that unlike the other recreational sports organizations in the area, the Community Recreation Board has a paid rather than a volunteer recreational coordinator, which he said would help solve problems with player, coach and parent conduct such as incidents that happened in Laquey during a previous sports season.

“If OYSL is just as good, what’s the problem with that?” asked board member Rube Dowell.

There are differences, Bishop said, and many of them have to do with a difference in a competitive versus recreational focus to the teams.

“I know in OYSL they handpick their teams, which to me means it is competitive,” Bishop said. “They’re not going to want to sign up to me. They’re going to put their little team together and then go sign up with Linda.”

Kristek said some of the smaller cities field only one team, but Bishop said that’s not the case with teams from the Waynesville-St. Robert area that are participating in OYSL.

That concerned recreation board member Glen Coffelt.

“All of the goodness which we have brought to the program by not having teams pre-selected will be washed away,” Coffelt said.

“But what good does it do to have a program that dies because we don’t have enough kids?” Kristek said.

Several board members asked whether those who want a recreational approach could join the Westside Baptist sports activities but several board members disagreed.

“I don’t think you want to mix this with Upward Bound because I’ve seen those games,” said board member Edna Givens.

Board member Kim Hawk provided more of an explanation.

“If you are an aggressive athlete because it’s an aggressive sport, that is not for you. We finally quit basketball entirely and went to wrestling because we were so frustrated,” Hawk said.

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