Park Board basketball highlights the social aspect of sports

Senior Gunnar Rudrud attempts to dunk. His teammate, senior Jacob Patterson, described his favorite part of playing Park Board: “[it’s] being able to play basketball again and being able to try things on the court that you wouldn’t be able to in a competitive setting.”

Maggie Fisher, Features Editor

In a small gym, the 15 or so spectators make a surprising amount of noise as they cheer on their favorite U18 Park Board basketball team. Most of the fans are friends of the players, but a few lone parents watch from the sidelines as well.

As the two teams run up and down the court, it’s obvious that the members of both teams know each other, and some of them are even friends. It’s also obvious that the teams don’t take themselves too seriously as they chat casually and joke with one another in between plays. Furthermore, they never once argued with the refs over “unfair” calls. Senior Park Board player, Jacob Patterson, explained, “a lot of people treat Park Board basketball as more of a social gathering than a sport.”

One team is dressed in black custom-made jerseys with nicknames, like “All State” and “Big Sean”, printed in bold, white letters on the back. This team is technically Pearl’s Park Board team, but most of the players on the opposing Hiawatha team regard them as Washburn’s Park Board team.

“There’s a team that represents almost every school; there’s one South team, a main Washburn team, a main Southwest team, a De LaSalle team, and kind of a Roosevelt team,” explained senior Park Board basketball player, Will Casperson. “It’s kinda cool because we’re playing against other schools essentially. I know a lot of the other players, so it’s another fun way to hang out and see each other.”

The interactions between the Park Board teams extend beyond the on-court interactions. Each Park Board team has a Twitter page. Senior Park Board basketball player, Jakob McCabe-Johnston explained, “We kind of like to put ourselves out there [on Twitter] and talk trash to other teams. We have game updates.”

McCabe-Johnston, Patterson, and Casperson all play on Hiawatha’s team, a.k.a. the “Pussycats.” They wear red jerseys and are made up of almost all South High senior boys. The boys, who are all close friends off the court, have been talking about forming a team like this since freshman year, according to Casperson.

“It’s been talked about in years past, but this year, being seniors, we decided to take initiative and just do it,” reflected Patterson.

About ten South boys decided to all sign up for the Hiawatha team altogether and it just happened that a few other boys were already signed up for the team. However, in order to play, the boys needed a coach due to “liability reasons” according to Casperson. They turned to their friend’s older cousin, Zach Graham.

“I feel like the players run the team more than [Graham] does. He’s just there because he has to be there. I’m glad he is there. We kind of decide the lineups more than he does . . . but Zach has the final say,” described Patterson. He continued, “Zach keeps it fair and less competitive [on the court]. Which is a good thing, because getting competitive in [Park Board games] is just pointless. He keeps everyone level-headed and gives everyone equal playing time. He’s just fun to be around.”

One aspect that the boys enjoy about Park Board basketball as compared with other formats (like club or high school teams), is that they are truly playing basketball just for fun.

“Everything else is way more competitive and you have to actually have skill. But, [with] Park Board you can walk into anything and you don’t have to be good at it and you can just play,” explained Casperson. “It helps us pass the time, have fun, and make memories. We’re not doing it to get better, we’re doing it to have fun.”

The team meets about three times a week: two games and one practice. But, there is no consequence if you need to miss an event for a prior commitment. Patterson elaborated, “We might give someone a hard time for missing practice but it’s never really serious. We have talked about it affecting playing time but no one really cares enough [to actually do that].”

McCabe-Johnston added, “There is really no competitiveness. We just mess around a lot. Sometimes we try to be serious, but we end up not being serious because none of us are really that good at basketball.”

Casperson would like people thinking about playing Park Board basketball to know that, “It’s definitely a good way to have fun and meet new people. You’re definitely going to meet people, have fun and it’s not very competitive.”