After absence, SBBA and youth basketball are back

| March 3, 2022 | 0 Comments

PLAYERS from Larchmont Charter Middle School include (left to right) Eitan Kim-Levy, Sean Kim and Ronin George.

My throat is still sore from yelling yesterday. I haven’t been inside St. Brendan School auditorium and gym for a youth basketball game in two years, and I forgot how loud it can get, even with the limited number of spectators currently permitted. Maybe wearing a mask gives the sensation that it inhibits voice projection, which caused me to yell louder than pre-pandemic, or possibly I was just excited to FINALLY watch a basketball game in person. I woke up unable to do much more than whisper. I don’t think my wife minded at all.

In March 2020, the SBBA (St. Brendan Basketball Association) canceled its post-season playoffs due to the pandemic. Every other youth sport would follow. Larchmont Charter School’s middle and senior high school basketball disappeared, and so did local high school wrestling. Next were spring sports like track and baseball. Summer wasn’t any different. Pan Pacific canceled its indoor summer basketball league, and Wilshire Warriors nixed baseball.

The seasons start

My son presently plays on two basketball teams. One is through CWC (Citizens of the World), his middle school, and the other is the great SBBA league. Both were scheduled to begin earlier this new year, but COVID-19 outbreaks caused a delay to the season’s start. First practices were pushed back, and so were the opening games.

“The season will be extended through March 19th,” said SBBA director Abel Luna. “The playoffs and finals will be the weekend of April 2nd.”

It has taken a lot to get the machine going again. SBBA hired Scott Taylor, a COVID-19 compliance officer, to check IDs and vaccination status at the St. Brendan gym entrance before games, and each player is allowed just two spectators. Chairs are positioned courtside in pairs with space between groupings, and masks are mandatory for players and for those watching.

“We have to be as compliant as possible,” explained Luna.

Positive Test

Already, players have tested positive for COVID-19, but that has been limited. After Week Two’s games, an email was sent to parents reporting that one of the boys had tested positive, but a few days after the game. The email was reassuring, and explained that the on-site COVID-19 compliance officer followed all protocol, and that players were monitored at each game to make sure nobody was experiencing symptoms.

Through contact tracing, association leaders have been able to contain any further infections and they have not had to shut down.

“It’s this kind of scenario which is why we opted for a vaccination-mandated league, for the protection of all the children and families involved,” read the emailed statement.

SBBA players Jack Byrne and Oliver Sobul position beneath the basket.

Basketball Blue

Anybody whose child has participated in the SBBA league is familiar with Greg “Blue” Blueford. He’s their lead official. Blueford is retired, but officiates part-time. He worked in three different youth leagues before the pandemic, including SBBA. All were shut down last year.

“You know, you miss the kids,” said Blueford. “And the extra money,” he added, laughing.

People like Blueford and Luna make the SBBA league a great experience. So do the facility and the team names. In the D-League, which is ages 12, 13 and 14, the team names and logos, which are on their jerseys, are a nod and tribute to the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association). The six D-league teams are The Aces, The Sparks, The Storm, The Lynx, The Sky and The Mercury.

It’s been great reconnecting with parents and grandparents at the games. I hadn’t seen Skip Byrne, the Aults or Greg and Julie Hoegee in almost two years. They still look the same. But like “Blue,” I’ve missed the kids, especially.

And the yelling.

By Jim Kalin

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Category: Entertainment

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