Vidakovich column: The Queen of Sayre Park
When Game On Sports Camps director Cassandra Irving arrived in Glenwood Springs from her home in Toronto, Canada, earlier this summer, she had no idea that the yearly pilgrimage to her old stomping grounds would involve such an extended stay.
The 1995 Glenwood High School graduate came south across the border to put on her annual Sayre Park youth basketball camp and reacquaint herself with family and friends in the area. But with the shutdown of most high school and middle school sports in the state until early January 2021, Irving’s usual two-week vacation has turned into at least a semi-permanent stay in order to help provide a sports-hungry valley with some options for basketball-playing youngsters from Parachute to Aspen.
The Western Slope League’s Player of the Year for girls basketball in 1995, the former Casey Hailey, who hooped collegiately at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, has also unintentionally revived the playground basketball hotbed of Glenwood. Long ago it was known simply as Strawberry Park, but she turned it once again into the place to be for evening round ball playing and viewing.
“When I tried to get this thing going in early August, I had no idea that it would become this big,” stated Irving on a recent summer evening, as she sat and watched her marvelous basketball monster unfold in front of her eyes on the Sayre asphalt. “It sure is fun, though, and it’s been an answer to a prayer for me.”
This “thing” that Irving is referring to is the Game On Camps middle and high school outdoor basketball league for boys and girls teams that runs every week from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. While players of all ages are dribbling and romping up and down the side-by-side courts at Sayre Park, parents and other spectators circle the grassy knolls and swales at a safe distance to take in the action that has eluded school-age sports fans since COVID-19 shut down all activities last March.
“I think the adults are enjoying this every bit as much as the kids are,” observed Irving. “Several parents approached me about running a fall basketball league since school sports are at a minimum and parks and rec’s programs are paused. Game On Camps is dedicated to standing in the gaps and helping out wherever we are needed, so I’m happy to stay here a bit longer and make it happen.”
Irving had to jump over and around several COVID-related obstacles in order to get approval from the city and county for her league, but the positive response she has gotten from appreciative members of the community and players has been well worth the effort it has taken to bring the kids back to the famous basketball courts that have once again become the centerpiece of activity at the south end of Grand Avenue.
“When I was here in school, these courts were always the place to be on summer evenings,” Irving said. “It’s a happening place again. Kind of like turning back the clock only with different faces.”
Wednesday nights in the league feature the high school boys teams going head to head, including the Steamboat Sailors who make the long and winding trek from their home to compete each week. Thursday evenings the high school girls take center stage, and on Fridays it’s the middle school boys and girls who get to strut their stuff from 4-9 p.m. under the lights.
The league is currently slated to run through early October, and Irving is still taking registrations for new teams at GameOnCamps.com.
Mike Vidakovich grew up in Glenwood Springs, is a longtime youth sports coach and is a regular sports contributor for the Post Independent.
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