Keep the Ball Bouncing

by Gabe Gross

Athletes all over the world are dealing with loss. Without organized sports, kids can fall into difficult situations. Athletics keeps teens occupied and in shape physically and mentally. Personally speaking, having played sports for nearly half my life, I am sad to miss out on chances to watch and play this year. Basketball is a very important activity in Peoria for players, coaches, and fans alike.

Typically, my winters are spent watching the Bradley Braves with friends and family. I miss many aspects of attending games, such as packing into Carver Arena, surrounded by a large crowd of fans decked out in red and white. As I think back on the experience, I instantly smell fresh popcorn, and recall greeting my grandparents as they walked down the aisle. And I think of Ja’Shon Henry and Ville Tahvaneainen, who play for Bradley, and how they are leaders on their team and real-life role models. I admire how the Bradley Braves are making the most of their season by giving it their all. They had a positive attitude and practiced hard individually during the quarantine.

On a personal level, my school teammates and I missed out on our entire 7th grade season. It is normally exhilarating to compete alongside them, and certainly more fun to practice basketball in a group. My teammates and I used to give each other high fives as we warmed up, and cheered one other on from the bench. Our coaches huddled us together giving advice, helping us become better players and people. During games, my family was very supportive. I heard them shout words of encouragement from the stands.

But like the Bradley Braves, players at every level can make themselves better—even in a pandemic. To gain a coaching perspective on what young players can do, I spoke to longtime local basketball coach Tim Wyman. He advises athletes to stay in shape and work on their development. “Build your body not just for basketball, but for health as an adult,” he observes. Coaches, like players, are also missing out this year. Coach Wyman notes, “I miss competing. I miss teaching the game and watching my players improve.” Area middle school coach Matt Gross says, “Players should be working on their individual skills and free throws. I am looking forward to getting back on the court next year, being a part of the team, and just being amongst people again.” Personally, I have been going to the gym to practice and keep my skills tight. Players that do not have access to a gym can dribble in their driveway or run to keep in shape.

Like many people, dear reader, you might find yourself longing for fun. Even though we cannot play competitively, it can be a learning year. We are preparing for the good that will eventually come. We need to set goals for what we want to strive for and achieve. Don’t give up—make yourself a better person and player. If we work hard now, then we will be able to come back strong.

About Gabe Gross 

Gabriel Gross is a 7th grader at St. Thomas Catholic School of Peoria where he serves as Student Council Secretary. He plays many sports, including basketball, baseball, tennis, and soccer. Gross enjoys drawing, creating comics, playing ping pong, hiking, video games, and traveling. He kept busy in 2020 outdoors with fellow artists and neighbors, filming a movie, and creating pop-up street art. In spare moments, he can be found playing fetch with neighborhood dogs. Gross plans to apply to the International Baccalaureate program at Richwoods High School. Some of his future interests are studying history, teaching, and coaching youth sports.

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