After turning 80 in January, a thought arose. With the major changes that have taken place in the sports world in the past 30 years, I mused as to whether I would trade the life I had lived in the sports world for a new start in today’s atmosphere. The answer took less than a nanosecond: no way.
The friends made and kept, plus memories made over the years, are too priceless. I do not envy those who are living in today’s sports activities at all. If anything, I think they should be jealous of those that have gone before. So many of the memories carved out during my early years were so unique — far from the cookie-cutter experiences of today. To explain, I thought I would go through the stages in my life concerning sports experiences, as I expect many others my age experienced much of the same.
Stage 1: The first seven years of my education were spent in a two-room, seven-grade county school. Sports were really not a part of it. The classes would get two, 15-minute recesses and a lunch break. There would be maybe a softball game or two, but more likely, we would play on the sparse playground equipment or other playground games. Youth leagues were not in sight.
Stage 2: After completing seventh grade, I went to the nearest 12-school district. It was my first introduction to organized sports. The coach of the sport would come into the classroom and ask, “Who wants to play (insert sport)?” Almost all hands went up, even though we had no idea what we were getting into. All of the equipment used was hand-me-downs: helmets without face masks and worn shoes. In basketball, we had to make our own jerseys by dyeing them and sewing on a number. Four or five games were played in each sport.
Stage 3: In high school, each sport had its own challenges. Football practice began about three weeks prior to the start of the school year. Players interested in getting in summer shape usually formed teams and made money by hauling hay. Football still had hand-me-downs. Helmets had one-bar masks by my sophomore year, but players would be lucky to have two changes of jerseys and pair of pants. Moms did a lot of sewing. Used shoes were still issued. Fields played on were mostly of the crude variety. Basketball venues were mostly unique to each school and not many were of regulation size. Youth leagues were introduced but always a year after I was too old.
Stage 4: I arrived in Dripping Springs during the summer of 1965 to be the other half of Coach Oran Rippy’s two-man coaching staff. We covered all the boys and girls sports offered in junior high and high school. Not much had changed from my high school days; most uniforms were hand-medowns, in addition to one set of varsity uniforms. The boys locker room was called “the dungeon” and was located under the stage in the gym. It had only one set of concrete steps down with a barred door to secure. Water was always seeping in, and clothes were forever damp.
Around this time, the University Interscholastic League gave each sport season a specific beginning and end with strict off-season rules. To hone their skills in the off-season, athletes would go to camps or play among themselves.
Football seasons gave many memorable opportunities, mostly involving bus trips to games with equipment piled on top and underneath. Grass fields were a constant battle, and I can remember at least two fields with cow trails on them. There is no telling how many tons of clover and grass burrs were removed each year only to start over the next. We would try to establish grass and start watering in June, rotating home-made sprinklers, getting up in the middle of the night to change them, only to have the Dripping Springs Water Supply officer ask us to curtail. By October, there was always very little grass between the 40’s.
1972 welcomed a new field house with 60 lockers (even though 80+ showed up the first day). In 1974, our QB Club purchased the athletic department a video system, and Dripping Springs was one of the first schools in the area that did not have to depend on 16mm film for games.
Basketball was another interesting ride — made mostly so by the unregulated gyms teams got to play in. It was a given the home team had a ten-point advantage because of the unique configuration of their gym. There were gyms where the out of bounds was less than three feet from the wall.
Dripping Springs got their first gym in January of 1953. One of the better gyms in the area, it had crescent-shaped wooden backboards that were updated to rectangle glass in 1970.
Spring season would bring tennis, baseball and track. Tigers had the privilege of practicing on a rocky, caliche track, then going to track meets and spending the night in a hay barn. The athletic period would be used for races dragging tractor tires, running prescribed obstacle courses, taking them several miles down Creek Road. Of course, some availed themselves of the occasional vehicle, while others got lost and had to be located.
Stage 5: In the late 80’s, the sports world started to change dramatically. Large salaries were starting to be doled out to professional athletes, and money greed started to influence parts of the sports world. In my opinion, this greed is going crazy in today’s sports and pure love of the game is hard to find at any stage.
In my eyes, the athletes of today are simply employees of their sport. They work for a company with a sports name and are expected to do so year-round. In a couple of levels, they are getting paid, but by far, most are having to pay to play.
I have no quarrel with those chasing their dreams. The odds are not in their favor, but it is their money and time. However, it has always been my opinion that it is the purpose of schools to prepare students for their adult years, and that includes recreational sports. Schools should be required to have intramural programs where any students who are interested can learn the fundamentals and play the game. The facilities that schools normally have are paid for by all taxpayers and therefore, all students should have access without having to try out for a team.