Exploring Athletics and Sports History Through Community-Based Resources

Exploring Athletics and Sports History Through Community-Based Resources

Western Massachusetts is known for a great many things, but sports aren’t generally one of them. Nevertheless, the region is filled with opportunities to learn about (and participate in!) sports of all kinds. Western Massachusetts can claim itself as the birthplace of at least two sports played worldwide, is home to a handful of semi-professional teams, and offers opportunities for youth to explore athletics of all kinds. Local families can even find ways to explore sports and sports history through the arts! From spectator opportunities and museum visits to full-on participation, sports-related learning opportunities exist locally all year round.

In terms of sports fame, the area is probably best known as the official birthplace of both volleyball and basketball. Springfield’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a landmark in the city, and honors the city’s claim to fame as home of basketball and its inventor, James Naismith. Created in 1891 in order to offer athletes an exciting and physically challenging indoor sport, basketball is now internationally known and loved. The Basketball Hall of Fame itself includes thousands of square feet of basketball history exhibits, as well as a 300+ member hall of fame commemorating the contributions and achievements of notable players, coaches, and others who’ve been a part of the sport.

A few years after basketball’s invention, volleyball was created in Holyoke – pitched then as a sport offering excitement similar to that of basketball but slightly less physical intensity. The International Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke spotlights the sport’s history and local roots, as well as exceptional players from the nearly century and a quarter that the sport has existed. Visitors can learn about the 125 people from 21 countries whose accomplishments have been significant within volleyball history, and can also view exhibits that offer a glimpse at the evolution and international growth of the sport.

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12 Baseball Books for Kids

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Take Me Out To The Ball Game:
New Baseball Books for Kids

In this boy-dominated batch of new baseball books, there are picture books and middle grade novels, action packed stories and baseball history, team spirit and individual courage. So, if your in-house sluggers are baseball crazy, try pitching one of these dozen new books to them. They just might hit a home run.


F is for Fenway: America’s Oldest Major League Ballpark written by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by John S. Dykes
In celebration of Fenway Park’s 100-year anniversary, this A-Z picture book introduces historic and nostalgic facts about America’s oldest major league ballpark. Readers can learn about the green monster, Peskys Pole, the lone red seat, and the long-standing Yankees rivalry. Red Sox fans will want this one in their collection.
Published by Sleeping Bear Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 2012. ISBN 978-1-58536-788-7

Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings written and illustrated by Douglas Florian
A collection of poems that takes ball lovers through the game and introduces them to the players on the field. From “Warm Up” to “The Season Is Over,” Florian pitches perfect in his newest book of poetry.
Published by Harcourt Children’s Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-68838-1

Brothers at Bat written by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno
The amazing true story of the Acerra family, who had sixteen children, twelve of them boys who all played baseball and who made up their very own baseball team. Set in New Jersey, from the 1920s through the 1950s, this picture book follows the brothers from boys playing ball after school to serious players forming their own semi-pro team to soldiers in World War II to their induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Their story exemplifies true team spirit.
Published by Clarion Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-38557-0

Lucky Luis written by Gary Soto, illustrated by Rhode Montijo
Luis, a baseball loving and somewhat superstitious rabbit, believes the free food samples he tries at the market gives him good luck in his games. But when the food samples run out, so does his luck on the baseball field. In the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs, Luis is up to bat. Will he let go of his superstitions and remember what his coach taught him before he strikes out?
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-399-24504-6

Homer written by Diane deGroat, illustrated by Shelley Rotner
In this picture book by local children’s book greats, Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner, it’s the neighborhood dogs who take to the field. While the humans sleep, the Doggers take on the Hounds for the championship. Can Homer hit it out of the ballpark to lead the Doggers to victory? Short, simple text and photographic images that put an array of canines in uniform will have young sluggers cheering.
Published by Orchard Books, New York, 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-33272-9

Just As Good: How Larry Doby Changed America’s Game written by Chris Crowe, illustrated by Mike Benny
It’s 1948, in Cleveland, Ohio, and Homer and his father are buzzing with excitement. Their team, the Cleveland Indians, has made it to the World Series, and they’re rooting for Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League. In this exciting game, Doby not only helps the Indians win their first World Series in 28 years, but breaks the color barrier in baseball and helps lay the foundation for the civil rights movement.
Published by Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7636-5026-1

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4 Western MA College’s Host National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Four Western MA College’s Host
National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Girls try out lacrosse, squash, softball, golf and many other sports during National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Title IX, the law that made sex-based discrimination in school sports illegal, turns 40 this year!  Young women can celebrate their equality by participating in National Girls and Women in Sports Day at a local Western MA college campus!  The national event takes place on February 1st, but local colleges are hosting their own special days in the weeks before and after the day.

Smith College’s event will take place on Sunday, January 29th from 12:30-4pm in Northampton, MA.  Girls in grades 3-5 are invited to the campus to take part in workshops on sports like rowing, tennis, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, and rock climbing.  Girls will get to choose which sports they learn about- it’s a great opportunity to try out something new, or to learn about a sport that has not traditionally been a women’s sport.  To register, visit www.smithpioneers.com.

Williams College will host their National Girls and Women in Sports celebration on Saturday, February 4th in Williamstown, MA.  Taking place from 10:30am-1:30pm, the event is similar to Smith’s in that it features workshops with student athletes on a variety of sports!  Girls who take part in the event can also take a yoga class or try out rowing!  The event is followed by a women’s basketball game against Bowdoin College, and girls who participated in the event can attend for free.  Girls in grades K-6 can attend.  To register, e-mail erd1@williams.edu.

Springfield College celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Saturday, February 11th from 9am-2pm.  Girls in grades K-6 can visit the school and take part in sports and exercise workshops, and they’ll get to meet the Springfield College women’s basketball team, too (There’s an opportunity to see a game after the event as well.)!  National Girls and Women in Sports Day is not only a way for girls to learn more about sports, it’s a way for kids to learn new and exciting ways to get active and an opportunity for them to see real life examples of successful female athletes.  Registration requested by calling 413-748-3756.

UMass’ celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day takes place on Sunday, February 19th from 12noon-1:15pm in Amherst, MA.  Girls can learn about and try out sports like lacrosse, field hockey, cheer leading, rowing, soccer, and more!  The event also includes a ticket to a women’s basketball game at the Mullins Center at 2pm.  Registration required by calling 413-577-7252.

Taking part in one of the events or just learning about the day can be an empowering experience for young female athletes.  Learning from women who have mastered a sport will show girls an attainable level of skill in a sport, and will provide a realistic picture of where playing a sport can get them in life.

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