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Posted: Wednesday, March 04, 2009

During the winter months, I have always spent a lot of time out on the ice, fishing. But now it seems that there are other things that my children are interested in besides just fishing. So since I am the father of five wonderful (most of the time) children, plus the foster parent of two more boys, I find myself spending more and more time at the gym in the wintertime watching basketball as well as soccer games.

There is this other thing, that is called "open gym" where they allow people of almost any age, to go and play basketball. Generally people get a game going around one basket, but sometimes it is full court or even cross court. I prefer playing at one basket for several reasons. Number 1 reason of course, being the fact that I am now 54 years old. The number 2 reason, is because when you play full court, you end up with the ball being thrown from one end of the court to the other. Which, in my opinion, does very little towards the education process for our younger players.

If you play at one basket, you can practice all aspects of the game. You can set picks, practice the pick and roll, and work on your passing or general ball handling skills. You can position under the basket for rebounds, and learn how to play better defense. If everyone is racing from one end of the court to the other you have very little time to work on anything. If you're 54 years old, you must also learn to keep your tongue from getting stepped on as you chug up the floor dragging it behind you. You find that most of your running, or should I say jogging in place, is done near the center jump circle. By the time you get that far, the young guys are generally on their way back!

I played basketball on Tuesday evening, February 24, at the Kenai Recreation Center for over 2 hours. And I must admit, I had a great time and it was a great evening in my opinion. We had people from just about every background in Alaska out there, and kids as young as eleven and one guy that was 54 (me). I asked some of the younger guys when we were done for the evening, how old they thought I was and their responses went from 31 to early 40's. They seemed quite impressed that I was 54 years old and still playing basketball. Everyone got along great, and I saw some pretty impressive basketball played that evening by players of all races, ages and perhaps the greatest size variation I ever saw on the court. Yes, I even played cross court on the last game!

Despite the great evening I had, and the much needed work-out, there was still one thing that really bothered me. In the many trips I have made to the gym this year to play basketball, as well to help coach my kids (In hopes of helping them become better basketball players!) I never once saw another dad there playing with his teen age boys! I have been there probably close to twenty times this winter, and not once did any of our games involve another dad with his kids! I know you're not all out ice fishing, because I don't see many of you there either with your kids.

Last night at the Boys and Girls Club, I watched my son Travis use a move I had used in high school to help get in position for a rebound from the free-throw line. This was something I learned on my own 35 years ago, and it works just as good today as it did then! I almost jumped out of my seat in the bleachers to see some of my hours of teaching are finally starting to pay off.

You see I was a 6' center in high school, and regularly played against much taller opponents. Besides having to give 100% on every play just to compete with the much taller opponents, I had to use every trick in the book. I only got outrebounded in one game my senior year by an opponent, and very few my junior year. To the best of my knowledge, I still hold the Augusta High School (Wis.) single game rebounding record of 26.

I read a statistic once where it said "75% of the people in our prison system are from fatherless homes"! Now I wonder, what the percentage of those people who ended up in prisons are from homes where dads were not active with their children? Personally, my father never once threw me a football or basketball in my life, but he did take me out hunting and fishing.

On another note, I did manage to sneak away to Kenai Lake while the kids were in school here and went ice fishing with my wife Taby and family friend Dallas Hanson. Fishing was slow, but I did manage to catch one lake trout that was 24.5 inches long and weighed 4.64 pounds.

We drove through almost white-out conditions, and stopped at Trustworthy Hardware where we weighed the fish in, and of course they took a picture of it. Almost the whole staff had to come look at my fish and I received many compliments about it! I can only imagine the excitement this generates among our young fisher girls and boys to get such VIP treatment. Heck, I was impressed and I am a crusty old 54 year old!

So dad, whether is it basketball with your kids at the recreation center or a day out ice fishing, or both. Trust me, no matter how stiff and sore you get from running up and down that basketball court, your children will help you out of your chair or off the couch so you can hobble off to bed. The relationship you have or intend to have with your children has to be built now, not after they leave home. If you have no kids of your own, perhaps you know of a situation where you can help out some other less fortunate kids!

See you next week!



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