Is Pick-Up Basketball Dying in Berkshire County

Recently, ESPN published a lengthy piece by Myron Metcalf and Dana O’Neil, entitled Playground Basketball is Dying.

Growing up in Central Mass, I loved playing hoops outside. My family always had a hoop in the driveway and there were two playground courts in walking distance.

Not that long ago, over the summers and in-between college semesters, my friends and I would hit the local courts around Marlborough to find pickup games. Sometimes we’d have to turn our car headlights onto the court to keep playing when it got dark. We may or may not have even toyed with the idea of breaking into the electric box at one park to see if we could turn on the overhead lights.

One winter break, we brought a bunch of shovels down to Ghiloni Park to clear off the court and not long after 10-20 guys showed up to get some real games going in the frosty weather.

In the ESPN story

I’ve been very pleased with the results thus far, however I realized I wasn’t quite sweating enough during a few of the workouts. While doing them, I’d also look over in the corner of my living room and see my basketball, lonely and unused. It was as sedentary as I had become in recent weeks.

The 7 a.m. games at the Pittsfield YMCA don’t always work out for me sleep-wise, so I needed another outlet for shooting hoops.

Since I was a kid, that has been my favorite form of stress relief. Somewhat ironically, considering how much stress playing basketball caused for much of my teen years.

So, I decided take a walk over to the Pittsfield Common on First Street and see what was up with those courts. However, upon arriving, I realized that the basketball courts there had been torn up, as a part of the overall Common rebuild. I hope they install new ones quickly, but until then it was time to see what else the city had to offer in outdoor basketball venues.

From the Common, I trekked over to Clapp Park. The courts at Clapp get really hot in the sun, without much relief from shade. Still, I got a great run in and there were a fair amount of people around, either running on the dirt track or playing with their children at the playground.

I met a young Pittsfield kid named Kyle and the two of us played a game of one-on-one, won handily by this crafty, old vet. Kyle had a real pretty outside shot, but growing up with a dad who was a 6’2” power forward, one learns quickly how to use your body in the paint during one-on-one competition.

Checking out the city’s website, I tried to locate other courts nearby. Clapp is a bit of a hike from my apartment, but according to the online document I found, Wahconah Park had basketball courts. That baffled me, as I’ve spent a fair chunk of my summer at the Wahc covering Pittsfield Suns baseball and hadn’t seen any hoops.

I made the walk anyway, and eventually found my way across to the far corner of the stadium’s parking lot. There, there was a full court alongside what appeared to be an old little league field.

The court at Wahconah was nice. There were plenty of trees nearby for shade and both hoops and backboards were in nice, working order. One half of it had a fair amount of cracks and just a few loose bits of broken glass, but they were easily swept off. The court was far more barren people-wise than Clapp, but the sounds of sneakers squeaking on a blacktop filled the air just fine.

On Monday, I checked out the courts at Springside Park. Just over half a mile from North Street, Springside offers a lot of the same elements of Clapp. There were plenty of people using the playground and even a few youngsters playing soccer on the little league field, home of Don Gleason Pittsfield North.

Springside is a bit more shaded than the other two I visited, but there was still plenty of sun on an 85-degree day to get a good sweat on.