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A new generation, a new set of problems

September 30, 2000 -- Foothill Leader

A new generation, a new set of problems

By Anita Susan Brenner

     Groucho Marx once said, "politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies."
     Can you spell "sports fields?"
     Politics aside, the family-friendly solution to the sports-field shortage is the Liberty Project. This long-term solution to the ball field problem would extend Memorial Park, built on on cut and cover over the Foothill (210) Freeway, down to Gould Avenue.
     Other groups have discovered short-term solutions. Welcome to National Junior Basketball, the hoopster's equivalent to AYSO.
     Many La Canadans go from sport to sport. In the fall, there's AYSO soccer, Gladiator football and Gladiator cheerleading. In the spring, there's the La Canada Junior Baseball/Softball Assn. In the winter, there's a gap.
     There's a highly competitive winter program called Spartan Basketball, designed for kids 8 to 13. There are tryouts. There are cuts. Only the top players make the team.
     There's also Y Winners, a smaller, less-competitive program.
     What La Canada needs, according to the hoopsters, is something like AYSO soccer, with fancy uniforms, volunteer coaches and no cuts. The motto of AYSO is "everybody plays." That's the kind of basketball program elementary school kids need.
     Currently, local basketball programs do not offer open teams in a competitive league.
     That's why a group of local parents have decided to organize a new program -- a La Canada chapter of a national program called National Junior Basketball or NJB.
     "We are a group of parents in the community that is responding to a perceived need in the La Canada Community to have a competitive basketball league designed for all children who want to play and where there are 'no cuts.' That's what the Web site says at
     Starting a program is no easy task. The hoopsters needed help with the infrastructure. So they turned to the granddaddy of La Canada youth programs -- the Roger Barkley Community Center, formerly known as the La Canada Youth House.
     Also known as the home of Gregory Chicken.
     And Gregory Peck.
     The staff at the Roger Barkley Community Center was receptive.
     Starting Oct. 9, you can go to the Barkley Center at 4469 Chevy Chase Drive to register your third- through eighth-grade sons and daughters in La Canada's new NJB program. You can call the center at (790-4353).
     The charge is $150 for a 15-week program. Practices will be on Saturdays. Games will be on Sundays. Your kids will be issued uniforms and t-shirts. And you can sign up to be a referee!
     Local parent and NJB organizer Kathy Kumagai said establishment of an NJB chapter is a positive step in bringing competitive community-based basketball back to La Canada. "We are really happy to have the cooperation and assistance of the Roger Barkley Community Center in this venture."
     Community center athletic director Dana Spautz is committed to the new program. She presently administers the community center's adult basketball program. She is familiar with local sports facilities.
     Dana Spautz loves basketball.
     Spautz didn't try to build a basketball court under the Edison transformers.
     She didn't ask to take over Rockridge Terrace.
     Or Cherry Canyon.
     Or the school district offices.
     Instead, Spautz lined up rental time at two local facilities. One is in La Canada -- the Foothill Intermediate School. The other is off the Glendale (2) Freeway at Ribet Academy in Los Angeles.
     I asked Spautz if Ribet Academy was too far. I knew that La Canadans will drive miles to the nearest Costco or Saks. Would they feel that Ribet is too far away?
     "It's not too far," Spautz said. 'It's only eight miles away ... There's good parking. It's a brand-new facility. It's enclosed. It's very nice."
     When practice starts on Nov. 11, FIS and Ribet will echo with the happy noise of the little-bitty hoopsters. The games will start on Dec. 3 and continue until Feb. 18, with an optional post-season tournament on March 11.
     Spautz plans for the program to break even, with administrative help from the community center. No one's out to make a profit. As in AYSO, parents serve as coaches and referees. They hope to have a few hundred kids. And the NJB will train the parents who graciously volunteer to participate.
     Instead of taking the long view, the City Council majority has selected the wrong remedies. Spend more money. Buy more land. Under the power lines. By the freeway onramp. Plan fields for residential neighborhoods. Tell the neighbors later.
     Hey! I know! Maybe we could rent fields in Glendale for the short term while we pursue the Liberty Project for the long term.
     Even Groucho would be happy.

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