Summer sports mostly your own business... now

I t’s hard not to notice the flurry of activities that take up most of our summer these days, even right here in Rockdale.

Over two hundred kids per day have taken instruction in a variety of sports all over the RHS campus.

But if you’re a parent with school age kids, I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. You parent chauffeurs, I mean.

While Little League did not throw out its first pitch in June back in the day, it is now concluded by that date on the calender.

Girls are playing volleyball in Cameron and basketball in Thorndale and traveling all over the country swinging a bat on select softball teams.

Boys get together and practice their passing and catching skills as part of 7-on-7 football teams.

Up until 1987, all the above was illegal.

It’s hard to believe that at one time, you couldn’t do what you wanted to do with your free time in the summer months, but it’s true.

The University Interscholastic League began “relaxing” its stiff as a starched shirt rules on summer participation in the mid-80s because of constant pressure from coaches and parents.

When we were in high school, you and a teammate couldn’t even be in the same gym or be declared ineligible.

Now don’t get me wrong, we played, of course we did, but it was all so clandestine.

My friend Danny Randall and I lived at Texas’ venerable old Gregory Gym and also haunted Concordia’s Quonset hut “gym”, where if you shot from the corner it would skim the metal beams holding it up.

Had anyone chose to turn us in—along with the other high school players we were playing with or against—I’m quite sure we would have been declared ineligible as well as most players in the state.

Because summers were closed, Texas was not the fertile recruiting ground that it is today. You were almost a pariah if you were a basketball player in the state of Texas.

The UIL was particularly hard on basketball for some reason to the point of being picked on.

The UIL allowed golf, tennis and band camps as well as summer league basketball.

Put a ball through a basket? Don’t you dare.

There was a theory floated around that the reason that basketball was singled out is because football coaches didn’t want basketball to gain in popularity and put a dent in football talent that might want to give hoops a shot.

This was in a time when athletic directors would walk in the coaches office and point randomly at some unsuspecting coach and declare, “you’re my new basketball coach.”

The reason given had to do with of course, money.

They reasoned that not everybody could afford to go to camp, so that gave a marked advantage to players who could.

In a 1979 poll, Texas high school superintendents and principals overwhelmingly voted 670-259 to keep Texas kids out of summer hoops camps and leagues.

Can you imagine the confetti storm of lawsuits that would rain down on the UIL now if they attempted to stop a kid from pursuing his sport of choice on his own time?

Think the change hasn’t made a different. In 1980, there were four players from Texas in the NBA. Today, there is almost 40.

The Lone Star State lagged behind for so long, but we have taken up the slack in no time. Think of the young stars of the NBA Deron Williams, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh—all Texans.

Just saying, appreciate what you have kiddos, because some of us would have loved to play during summer without sneaking around like wanted outlaws, having to exit through the back door.

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2012-06-28 digital edition

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