Pee Wees problems not just EB’s

East Bremerton Red’s Rob Shauger Jr. drives down court through two North Mason players in a Feb. 8 game. Below, East Bremerton White’s Jordan Naparan-Richards shoots the ball on Feb. 3 against East Bremerton Blue. Jersey issues sparked parental concerns in EB.  - Photo by Jesse Beals
East Bremerton Red’s Rob Shauger Jr. drives down court through two North Mason players in a Feb. 8 game. Below, East Bremerton White’s Jordan Naparan-Richards shoots the ball on Feb. 3 against East Bremerton Blue. Jersey issues sparked parental concerns in EB.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

The East Bremerton Pee Wees Association is looking for solutions to the issues that have drawn ire from league parents. In recent weeks, parents have expressed concern about the younger players not having basketball jerseys like their older counterparts despite paying the same fees and a lack of gym space for practices.

The EBPWA, however, is not alone in facing these issues.

Rich Huddleston, president of the Silverdale Pee Wees Association, said that league started using reversible jerseys for the kids to avoid conflicts of like colors, much like the EBPW ‘E’ string basketball teams faced at the start of the year.

“It does cause conflicts when some of the teams don’t have reversible shirts,” Huddleston said. “As long as they’re playing a team with reversible ones, they’re fine.”

This season, Silverdale faced issues regarding jerseys for the girls teams, which had been using boys jerseys, Huddleston said.

“If the issue is replacement of jerseys, we start at the top (of the age groups) and eventually work our way to the bottom,” Huddleston said. “That’s because the older kids put more wear on (the jerseys).”

East Bremerton also has used this approach. EBPWs replaced the jerseys because the older ones were in such bad shape. Some of them were deemed unusable by EBPWA president James Brake.

“That’s what led us to purchase new uniforms,” Brake said. “We’re trying to put the controls in place so these problems don’t continue.”

Linda Smalley, the Warren Avenue Pee Wees Association president, said her league has dealt with size issues for its ‘E’ level players. Because of a lack of available sizes, the league has considered going to a similar cotton jersey used by EB this season.

Many of the current issues being dealt with are fueled by EBPWs combination of new youth parents and a fairly new executive board, Smalley said.

“People need to remember that James (Brake) is new,” Smalley said. “He’s doing the best he can. And there’s new parents coming in expecting the world for their kid.”

In addition to the jersey situation, another problem the EBPWA faces is the rising cost of insurance. In the past, the Bremerton School District paid the insurance because the league used the district’s facilities.

Insurance costs are now the team’s responsibility for which they maintain a $1 million liability coverage policy. The insurance costs the Warren Avenue league about $2,000 for its basketball program, Smalley said.

Combined with the costs of referees, which the Central Council schedules for the ‘AA’ string through the ‘C’ string, Pee Wees groups have been feeling more of a financial pinch. The Central Council is the governing body that oversees local Pee Wee programs.

Finding referees for the lower levels has also been an issue. More often than not, the problem is in a lack of volunteers at the younger levels.

East Bremerton will recruit high schoolers to officiate the games for $5 to $10 a game. Payment will give the students incentive beyond just volunteering and will help with the referee shortage, Brake said.

“The plan is to recruit 10-15 (high school) boys and girls,” Brake said. “We’ll find a ref we know to give them some level of training. The plan is to use them at all levels.”

High schoolers will be used for the ‘C’ through ‘E’ levels.

“Where we’re finding is a big amount of the issue is with not having enough refs,” Brake said. “Parents are yelling at the refs, coaches are yelling at the refs. We’ve had volunteers walk off the court because of verbal abuse.”

Smalley, too has dealt with overzealous parents at the ‘E’ level.

“They’re not NBA players,” Smalley said. “They are developmental youth players. Sometimes parents lose focus of that. These kids aren’t learning the basic fundamentals watching the NBA guys.”

She remembers ‘E’ level games where parents would criticize her coaching because the kids weren’t shooting enough in the parents’ eyes. She said the gym they had been using didn’t have adjustable rims.

“Most of that team couldn’t even reach the basket,” Smalley said. “We would be focusing on dribbling, the rules, positioning, how to play a zone. I took a lot of gripe from parents over not making them shoot.

“But it’s not all about winning,” she said. “Kids need to win and lose and learn to do that with grace.”

As far as gym time is concerned, no one has it worse locally than North Mason, which relies on gyms at North Mason High and Belfair Elementary.

Randy Neatherlin, North Mason Pee Wees Association vice president, said keeps all of his teams, no matter the level, from adequate practice time.

“That’s the sad part,” Neatherlin said. “Because we’re so limited we’re lucky to have one practice per team. Maybe two if it worked. But once games start, there’s zero. There’s just no time.”

North Perry Pee Wees president Ron Moore said all groups that use Bremerton School District facilities, from Pee Wees to the PTA, now meet monthly to try to determine equal facilities use.

“What happened in the past was a first come, first served,” Moore said. “I think it’ll work much better. Everyone knows what’s going on.”

Smalley said improved relationships with the Bremerton School District have alleviated some of their space issues, although practices an still be hard to come by. She said the improvements she has seen in East Bremerton and Warren Avenue are largely the result of an effort to improve the athletic climate in Bremerton in general.

She said the formation of the Kitsap County-Bremerton Athletic Roundtable has made all youth sports in Bremerton take a good look at their programs.

For example, Smalley said the Warren Avenue Pee Wees have been working more with Larry Gallagher, the Bremerton High School Athletic Director, and with Bette Hyde, Bremerton School District superintendent, to get more gym time.

“Overall, we all have the same end result in mind,” Smalley said. “We’re doing this for the kids.”

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