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Youth sports fun: Getting to hang with other parents

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POSTED February 18, 2009 5:06 a.m.
I’ve been blessed these past two years.

In fact, I considered it a privilege to have helped out as a coach for my son’s CYO basketball team. Pat Miller, Josh’s coach for the past three years, asked me to help out as his assistant when the previous guy went off to college.

I met Pat when our sons were in fifth grade. Back then, we usually sat together in the stands during practices and the games, talking basketball among other things.

He reminded me of another guy named Pat, Patrick Kelly of Tracy.

Kelly is the owner of Domino’s Pizza at the corner 11th Street and Tracy Boulevard. During my days as a sports writer, I looked forward to conversing with Pat Kelly, who often followed West High hoops. He was a college player in his days and could be found on most days dominating the court while playing with guys half his age in pick-up games at the nearby In-Shape Sports Club.

Needless to say, Kelly knew his hoops. Watching games, we sometimes played armchair coach. On one occasion, I saw a certain player on West light it up from the outside against Sierra High. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Timberwolves go to a box-and-one (defense),” I said.

With my nose buried in my notepad, Kelly nudged at me while pointing out, saying, “There’s your box-and-one.”

And while many parents are afforded the opportunity to coach their kids at the lower levels of youth sports, I’ve found that it’s usually best to leave it in the hands of those who know best once he or she gets older.

When Josh started playing baseball, I helped out as an assistant coach with drills during his first year in the minor league division of Little League. But as he advanced, I quickly took a back seat, hanging out in the stands with the other parents while encouraging my son to absorb what was being taught to him.

I still look forward to seeing many of these same people today. Over the years, we sort of became family, attending birthdays and other functions.

Meanwhile, my son is still unsure if he’ll stay youth baseball this year. Since he’ll be entering high school next year, I’m leaving that decision in his hands. But for my sake, I hope he plays at least one more year.

My reasons may be a bit selfish. I’m used to being around the ball park from March to June, hanging out with other parents while snacking on bags of sunflower seeds.

Like any parent involved in youth sports, I’m seeing that end of the tunnel. And I know I’m going to miss it.

That’s what happened with Pat Miller and me this past weekend. Our eighth-grade team was eliminated in the semifinals in the CYO hoop tournament at the Presentation gym.

For Pat, it was perhaps an end of an era.

He had coached hoops years before the birth of his twins, taking a break from the action for several years for domestic reasons, and returning to the fold once his kids were old enough to play.

I turned to Pat in the final minutes during a blowout loss to St. Bernard’s. “I guess we better get ready for our next (sports) career,” I said.

“And what’s that?” Pat asked.

“As basketball referees,” I shot back.

He got a good laugh out of that one. For he, too, had been approached by those near and dear to him who officiate the game.

I had a chance encounter with Pete Basilio of the Northern California Officials Association South Unit not too long ago as my son was the recipient of his family’s memorial scholarship.

Pete strongly encouraged me to at least look into it.

Who knows? Perhaps officiating basketball might be in the cards for me. I’m certainly not ruling it out.
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