This summer, the Gershkoff Auto Body American Legion baseball program fielded three teams that included a senior team, and junior team, and a new 13-U showcase squad. Although the senior unit had a down summer, the junior team won the state title and the showcase youngsters went toe to toe with some of the best teams in New England as it traveled throughout the region.
When speaking to the coaching staff in the Gershkoff program, they were thrilled at the results and are motivated to make the team more than just a local Legion squad, but a regional powerhouse that boasts success with strictly homegrown talent. It’s a great idea and inspiring when you really think about it.
Typically, Legion teams are made up of local rosters and the only time they are really talked about outside of the hometown papers is when they reach the regional level. Gershkoff sent their teams all throughout the Northeast this summer to get a taste of the high level of competition and although there is work to be done, it was a nice step forward and will help them achieve their ultimate goal of being recognized by states outside of just Rhode Island.
Personally, I have always been an advocate for inter-state play. Sure, there are AAU teams that offer that. It’s not as if no other team has done it, but the fact that Gershkoff is looking to compete with those teams while compiling rosters of Cranston-Johnston kids exclusively is admirable, and this year shows that it may not be farfetched to think that the talent pool between those two communities will be enough to compete with the larger draws.
In the past I have mentioned that I believe at the high school level, there should ne New England championships in every sport. Individual sports like cross country, track, wrestling, along with a couple others compete in regional championships. However, imagine if we got to watch all sports do just that? Imagine if there was an established body that oversaw regional championships and worked with all six states for each sport?
That would be a blast and if handled properly, would only require perhaps one additional week to each sports season. Perhaps we should shorten each season by a week to accommodate the adjusted schedule. High school is different than summer baseball, but the message is the same in each. It’s fun and beneficial for the athletes to compete against others outside of their own back yard.
Not to mention the fact that not all kids can afford AAU or these other travel programs. The cost is rising each year and many families simply cannot afford to keep up. To create more of these opportunities would open doors for these kids to continue to play against some of the best in the region and continue to build their games on the field, regardless of the sport.
Gershkoff is playing its hand correctly and this summer was an important first step toward the future. The junior team and the showcase club proved that they could hang in there with any team they faced in New England, and with a couple of tweaks and improvements, could maybe beat any of those teams next summer. It’s an overlooked story that should be paid attention to moving forward and although my high school idea may be a tough one to pull off, I hope others are in agreement and would welcome the possibility even if it is a small one.
Football season is right around the corner and NFL training camps are underway. There was a storyline that got my attention this week that made me shake my head and sigh.
Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera admitted in an interview that his players are “concerned” about new assistant head coach Eric Bieniemy’s intensity as he tries to establish himself as a leader of his new team. When reading the details, it sounds like Bieniemy has simply been strict. An enforcer.
If there was ever a sport in which I thought hearing reports like these would never happen, it would have been football. Football requires toughness both mentally and physically. Unless new reports emerge in which we find out that Bieniemy’s approach crosses the line, I have to say that I’m disappointed to see that this is where we are with this new generation of players.
To be frank, athletes are softer across all sports. There is flopping in basketball, declining fighting numbers in hockey, fewer brash characters in baseball. Apparently, football players are now turned off by being coached hard.
That is why Bill Belichick has struggled to reach his players these past few years. Sure, losing the best player in NFL history would make any coach look average, but I definitely feel that there has been a little bit of a disconnect at times.
Football is not a sport that should be taken lightly. It is a physical sport that needs to be played with a mean streak. It just has to. We’ll see how the Commanders look as the season begins in a few short weeks, but I have a feeling that things could get ugly fast if the players continue to reject tough coaching.
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