Griffith Blackcats league set to begin another season
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent November 21, 2012 8:14PM
At the Griffith branch YMCA on Nov. 13, Ryan Dragomer (center) tells his mom and sister – Rebecca Dragomer and Alyssa Dragomer – about his eagerness to sign up for his second year of Griffith BlackCats basketball. League officers (seated) Bobby Collins and Tim O'Brien registered dozens of boys for the season that starts in January.
Updated: December 24, 2012 7:13AM
After 18 years of Griffith Blackcats basketball — the organization that replaced the former Griffith Biddy Ball — league board members have running operations down to a science. And timing is as important as any other factor.
Aside from having run four sign-up dates earlier this month, the 250-player league will lay low throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. In fact, the only remaining public business prior to Christmas is the Blackcats’ player evaluations set for Dec. 15 at Griffith High School.
With the cooperation of local school officials, the league for Griffith boys in first to eighth grades will kick off its 10-week schedule starting Jan.13.
“They’re accommodating with the practices,” Blackcats president Tim O’Brien said. “We get to use all of the schools and they wait for us to give them our schedule before they schedule something else. That’s always nice.”
O’Brien said he initially hadn’t heard of the league when he moved to Griffith in the 90s. But as his kids have grown up, the organization has provided a home for a unique brand of “instruction, yet competitive” basketball.
Between the build-up to the holidays, special tournaments requiring use of the gyms and other factors, board member Bobby Collins agreed with O’Brien that the league has had its best footing starting at the beginning of the new year.
Second grader Ryan Dragomer brought not only his mom and sister — Rebecca and Alyssa Dragomer — to the Griffith branch YMCA but his palatable excitement for all things sports. Ryan said he’s already tried “basketball, soccer, hockey, and that’s about it.”
His mom said he also swims, runs and generally remains active like his older sister.
“They are pretty active; they do some sort of sport for the vast majority of the week,” said Rebecca Dragomer, registering her son for the league. “(Ryan) likes to pretty much do any sport except football.”
Ryan Dragomer said he’s inspired by his fleet-footed uncle, Eddie Dragomer, who runs marathons. As far as basketball, he said he’s learned a lot about the game’s rules and is improving with his shooting as he enters his second season.
“I’m really good at corner shots,” Ryan said about being able to use the backboard.
All of the energy he dedicates to athletics has some side benefits, he explained.
“I always exercise so sometimes Mom lets me eat junky food,” said Ryan.
Collins who, like O’Brien has a son in sixth grade who plays in the Blackcats organization, said some basic philosophies have been upheld over the years to maintain the Griffith league as a “fun, fair, and safe environment.”
No players are “cut” and player rotation schedules are used to ensure equal playing time. Ideally the board members said six teams of eight players will compete in divisions grouped in two-grade increments.
Volunteers step up to help open and close gameday operations, man concessions and, of course, help instruct the youths.
“We’ve never had that problem where we didn’t have enough coaches,” O’Brien said.
Along with strong coaching, hiring quality referees is a lesson that O’Brien and Collins said they’ve learned throughout their combined two decades of service to the organization.
“(Quality officiating) is more important for the kids than anything else because as they advance in age groups — from third and fourth (grade) to fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth — the games get pretty heated, very intense,” Collins said.
Ultimately, what makes the Blackcats league a possibility for many of the families is the scheduling of games.
“Their basketball games are on Sunday,” Rebecca Dragomer said. “It doesn’t interfere with any other sports.”
For more information about Griffith Blackcats Basketball, call Tim O’Brien at 805-3559.