March 11, 2009

Basketball a challenge for middle-aged bones

As published in The Erin Advocate

The pains were familiar and to be expected. Your tendons feel too short, your hips need a shot of axle grease and your lungs seem too small to keep up with your heart.

I would not want to discourage anyone from coming out to Sunday afternoon community basketball at the Erin high school gym. Most people who might consider playing are either in better shape than me, or smart enough to take it easy on their first time out.

No need to buy a membership or commit to a team, just drop in with your running shoes, contribute $3 to the pot, warm up for a few minutes and take turns in the pickup game. It was just what I needed last week, feeling cooped-up and tired of winter.

"We have good sportsmanship, with a wide range of ages and skills," said Patrick Suessmuth of Erin Hoops. "Everybody blends in and everybody has fun."

I have known Pat since the mid-1990s, when I got involved with Erin Hoops as a coach, shortly after the group was started by Brian Bissell, Carolyn White, Brian Smith and Peter Olsen. I was also a referee and club registrar for a couple of years, and though I gained an appreciation of the game, I never got very good at it.

Now, after not playing at all for at least five years, my skills are minimal. Still, players much better than I were willing to pass me the ball, and I did manage four baskets in two hours. Of course, Pat was more than glad to provide advice. "Phil, you need more arc on your shots – about six feet more."

Community basketball has been going about ten years now, open to men and women. The age range on Sunday was from young teen to senior.

Pat and his team of helpers always have a lot on the go, mainly at The Main Place in the old Erin Public School at 185 Main Street. Erin Hoops gets a great deal on the space thanks to Gary Langen, who owns the building. Kids can drop in for recreational activities any day after school. Check out the programs, or learn about becoming a volunteer, at

There is the March Break Basketball Camp, March 16-20, and a wide choice of affordable Summer Camps including basketball, arts & crafts, dance, badminton, baseball, tennis and floor hockey.

There are monthly Classic Movie Nights. There are monthly Bingo Nights – no need for a gaming license, since people play for Freecycle prizes. Freecycle is a worldwide movement to keep good stuff out of landfills by offering it for free to other people.

Pat got the Erin chapter started and it now has 319 members. There are another 11,500 members in the Rockwood, Acton, Georgetown, Caledon, Milton, Guelph and Brampton groups. Go to, or Google: Erin Freecycle.

As for me and my middle-aged bones, the pains have subsided, so it must be time to push myself a bit more. I will play some basketball, but soon, the ice will be gone. I will get out the bicycle and the tennis racquet. And I can hardly wait to take Lilly for a nice, long hike without worrying about the wind chill factor.