Veteran players continue to thrive in league
Every weekend during the winter and even part of the spring, you can find basketball games at the local high school. While it may not be the high school athletes playing, a lot of former local legends still go out and have fun to play the game they love in the Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation basketball leagues.
Some of those veteran players have been doing it for many years and have helped keep the league going strong. It’s not about the winning and losing, or how old or young they are, it’s mostly just about having fun.
“You make a lot of friends, it’s good competition,” 51-year old Davis Rosen said. “It’s enjoyable. I’ve played with a lot of great players over the years.”
The playoffs begin this weekend for the league, which is divided into three divisions. Once this league is over, there’s a 37-and-older league, which will start in March.
Edinburg resident Wes Pence plays in several basketball leagues throughout the year. The 49-year old said he travels a lot with his job and he also tries to play when he’s in other cities or countries. Pence said he likes to stay in shape, but he doesn’t like to run, so playing basketball helps.
“If I get up and down on a basketball court, it’s just fun and you don’t realize that you’re running,” Pence said. “It’s great exercise.”
Pence has been playing in the regular county league since 1984 and also plays in the 37-and-older league.
He said he enjoys the Shenandoah County league better than any other league he plays in.
“It’s a very competitive league,” Pence said. “It’s a lot of fun. I think the league has been very consistent with the way they do it. It’s just a well-run league. It’s a joy to play in it. The guys at the parks and rec they do a really good job with it. This is a big league that they manage compared to the other counties.”
Steve Kibler said the league is a family affair for him. He runs the Windy Hill Biewers, and he said he only has two non-family members on the squad.
“We have a good time, get a little bit of exercise,” Kiber said. “I like to have family members on the team, because I know that I can depend on them. You don’t want to have to be looking over your shoulder right before the game wondering who is going to show up.”
Kibler said that one of the keys to the league is having different divisions. Teams can play in different divisions based on skill levels, which keeps the league competitive.
He also said that age doesn’t matter, which is another great thing about the league. Ronnie Jett, at 68, is the oldest player in the league. Jett’s team, Ronnie’s Rockets, has a lot of older players on the team, but they can still be as successful as anyone. They finished the regular season 8-4.
Travis Cooper, of Woodstock, has been in the league since 2000 and has been on a number of championship teams. Cooper said his brother, Jason, started a team in 2000 and they thought they would have success right away because of their age, but it didn’t go that way.
“We thought we would make an immediate impact in the league. We quickly found out it was a different game from high school, college, intramurals, or pick-up games
at the park,” Travis Cooper said. “The league was a lot more physical and it took us a year or so to adjust.”
Cooper, who graduated from Central, said part of what makes the league fun is that most of the players are from the area and know each other.
“This league is special because it’s mostly all Shenandoah County guys still competing,” Cooper said. “There is also good relationships built with refs and other players in the league over the years. We mostly keep coming back because we still like to win some additional championships, but at a minimum it gives us the ability to get out and exercise as we get older.”
Pence said that playing in the league is a little different than when he first started out.
“Problem is, now if I had to do the jump ball at the beginning of the game I would probably pull every muscle in my body,” Pence said with a laugh. “If I did it at halftime I’m fine. It just takes a lot longer to get warm and get lose. Once you get loose you’re fine.”
Stonewall Jackson boys basketball coach Patrick Smoot is one of the younger guys. He’s been in the league for eight years, after starting when he was 18.
Smoot said that he learns a lot from playing against the older players, and they’re a big part of why the league is successful.
“It’s one of those things where they’re old enough and mature enough to understand the game and it’s fun to watch them,” Smoot said. “It’s fun to play against them in that league, because they teach you things. They show you things you haven’t seen before.”
Jett said another thing that helps keep the league going strong is that they have rules, such as if you receive two technicals you have to sit the next game, and once you get four you’re done for the year.
“It’s a good league. We’ve had some good ball players come through here,” Jett said. “It’s still good basketball.”
Pence said he loves competing against the younger players and that’s part of what keeps him coming back for more.
“I enjoy the competition. I still feel like I can compete with the younger guys,” Pence said. “I guess when I really feel like I can’t, then I’ll go home. As long as I feel like I can get out there and I can contribute, I’m going to play.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org