2017-01-09 / Sports

No benchwarmers allowed

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Biddeford Parks and Rec. youth winter basketball opening day
By Taylor Morrison
Assistant Sports Editor

BIDDEFORD -- Children in first grade are not usually congratulated for stealing a ball out of another child’s hands, unless they are youth basketball players in the Biddeford Department of Parks and Recreation’s Youth Basketball League. Saturday was the opening day of the winter youth basketball season for the Biddeford Department of Parks and Recreation.

The J. Richard Martin Community Center in Biddeford hosted the Biddeford teams Saturday morning for home opening games, starting with grades 1-2. Biddeford Parks and Rec. has multiple teams, defined by colors, who played against each other this weekend. Next weekend, some teams will travel and play against other area teams.

No matter how sleepy the eyes, early that morning every face in the community center carried some expression of sweet amusement as small children forgot which direction to run across the court, held the ball and sprinted to shouts of, “No, son, it’s not football!” and once, threw the ball into the opposing team’s hoop.

The sweetest part is that during the eight four-minute periods, you can watch the learning process happening. Not only are the coaches and parents actively guiding the kids through the games by voice from the sidelines, but the referees frequently stop for quick lessons. There is no official score kept, though some of the quick children can be heard shouting it, and everyone is rotated into play. Substitutes are mandatory every four minutes.

Mike Fecteau, the Youth Program Coordinator for the Department of Parks and Recreation said, “it still becomes competitive. Some kids in the back of their mind will always know what the score is, but we want to make it fun. That’s the most important part in the world. This is a game you play for life.”

You might call Fecteau the grandfather of Biddeford basketball. He was the high school basketball coach for twelve years, and also currently runs the Kinder Hoops program as well as the Pre-K program.

When asked what his favorite parts of the program were, Fecteau said, “number one is getting the kids out doing a sport. Also, you know, it’s getting them out, away from technology, doing something, getting some exercise. At the same time, they’re having some fun playing with their friends. Comradery is a big thing here. We’re also trying to help build up a program for the high school kids.”

Looking around the room in a snapshot, one can relate to Fecteau’s statement. Nearby, grade 3-4 players waited with their parents for their game to start, young eyes buried in smartphones nearly as large as their own heads. There were also younger siblings, watching starry-eyed and admiring. You could almost read their minds, ‘I can’t wait.’

In addition to Fecteau and staff, each team came accompanied with two volunteer coaches per team and a gaggle of proud grandparents and parents shooting video and sideline coaching. The modest community center gym was rather packed for the low-profile sporting event.

While coaching a first grade basketball team may sound like a cakewalk, watching the alternately excited, hyper, grumpy, or confused looks on the players’ faces, one gets the idea that coaching this lot may be rather like trying to hold sand in your hand without it slipping through.

Fecteau said, “the biggest thing to the Rec. department here is that our coaches are all volunteers.. For them to give up a couple hours every week to coach the kids and teach them the fundamentals of the game, also, for them to learn the discipline and respect of the game is very important to us.”

Tui Dubois, after watching her son Joseph's game, said, "I feel happy. This is the first game for him. He's doing good, I hope that he will continue to work on this. He played last year, but this year I think he's gotten better a lot. The coaching staff takes very good care of them, especially Mr. Mike. My older son grew up with this since he was six years old."

Young Joseph Dubois, of the Biddeford Parks and Recreation grade 1-2 Carolina Blue team said it best, "I like to knock the ball out of people's hands and that's all I'd like to say."

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