Author Thomas Wolfe once wrote that “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
However, a group of former Lawrence County CYO Basketball League players and coaches are certainly going to try. They’ve been meeting for a while now in an attempt to bring back the program that has been gone for 17 years. We applaud their efforts, and wish them the best of luck.
The memories they share are compelling. They speak of countywide participation (15 teams from as many parishes, according to former league director and present-day committee president Anthony “Bucky” Richards), of long-lasting friendships forged and of competition as intense as any found in local high school games. A look back at our own archives seems to indicate that our sports department at the time recognized this. League games received full box scores in the paper — the same as high school teams — and photos of championship teams were published as well.
Things, though, have changed somewhat since those days.
Those 15 parishes, for example, have been reduced by consolidation to the point that as of July 1, a single parish now encompasses all the parishioners who once were divided among more than a dozen churches. There are concerns that a lack of the traditional rivalries could blunt participation levels.
On the other hand, organizers also plan to establish co-ed volleyball and softball programs as a first step in getting youths back into the gym. If it works, perhaps we would see both boys and girls participating in CYO basketball, something that didn’t happen before.
We’re also pleased to see that, as before, participation in CYO basketball would require attendance at an off-the-court parish gathering as well. However, whereas the defunct league made it mandatory to be part of a weekly Catholic education night in a classroom atmosphere, the focus now is a twice-a-month youth ministry that includes social nights as well as evenings of faith examination.
If there’s any part of this that gives us pause, it’s the reason Richards cited for the demise of CYO basketball in 2002 — unruly fans whose behavior frequently escalated into fights, requiring the summoning of police.
It’s no secret that Lawrence County residents are passionate about youth sports, from the first days of pee wee football through Little League years and all the way up to and including high school varsity programs. And periodically, the issue of overenthusiastic fans arises in all of them.
As we would in any sport for any age group, we urge parents, friends and fans to use restraint if and when a revived CYO basketball league tips off. We often hear complaints about there being nothing to do in New Castle, especially for kids. Well, here’s a response to that thought, and care should be taken not to dash it.
As members of seven churches who are now part of a single parish tackle the process of blending their congregations, they certainly should embrace anything that helps that process along.
And we believe a resurrected CYO Basketball League could go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. Parishioners should be ready to offer their support, encouragement and prayers to organizers and teens alike to help re-establish what was once a vibrant part of the county’s sports and religious scenes, and can be again.