By Annabel Monaghan
Our teenagers live in a world that is constantly rating them with grades, rankings, and scores that will lead them to an admissions letter, a degree, and, hopefully, a job. At some point in high school, they decide if it doesn’t go on their resume, there’s no time for it. Take these over-scheduled, overwrought kids and lock them down for 18 months, and you’ll see a bunch of kids who really need to blow off some steam. Specifically, they need to play.
Monsignor Dwyer at Church of the Resurrection recognized this long before the pandemic. In 2013, when the Resurrection Middle School gym was renovated and finally offered air conditioning, he started spring and summer high school and college basketball leagues for boys. These leagues are the only ones of their kind in Westchester County and are designed to support the kids’ mental well-being – a pressure-free place to come to socialize, get some exercise, and play. This summer, over 100 kids come to Resurrection’s Doty Gym each week to do just that.
The Res League is my kids’ favorite thing, hands down. It feels like a break to them, the one thing they do just for the joy of it. To me, it feels like a throwback to a time that many parents remember — before childhood looked like a job. The league is organized, but not overly so. There are referees and team T-shirts. Players self-report their playing ability, and someone puts together fair-enough teams, though no one really cares when a team is stacked. Freshmen play with seniors, and kids who have played very little basketball play with kids who are captains of their college teams. Everyone passes to everyone. The team with the best record at the end of season “wins”, and that’s mostly about bragging rights.
Maybe the best part: the parents don’t really go to watch. I don’t go because the games are scheduled around the kids’ internal clocks, so the whole thing happens after my bedtime. But I like the idea of these kids playing without our running commentary, without the shouts of “box out” from the sideline. In this league, they’ll box out if they feel like it, thank you very much.
Kids are welcome from any town, any school, any religion. The games begin with a prayer, for each other, for the country, and for sportsmanship. Afterwards, kids socialize and linger to talk with Monsignor. They tell him about their jobs and their school life. He tells me that there’s a Jewish boy on one of the teams who attends a Catholic university and comes to him with questions. I would be very surprised if these conversations ever take place in a more formal setting, but anyone’s approachable with a basketball in his hand.
This year’s spring and summer seasons were particularly poignant. Fifty high schoolers and fifty college students showed up to play, embracing friends they hadn’t seen in over a year. A gym filled with kids who are laughing and moving their bodies feels like a real blessing. And, for sure, a 20-year-old boy walking into the house at 10 p.m., sweaty, happy, and healthy is my favorite thing.