By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- It was a morning of fun, exercise, and teamwork at the Oxnard PAL (Police Athletic League) Feb. 8, as Colonia defeated St. Anthony's in youth basketball 10-5.
In reality, both teams walked away as winners because they had the opportunity to get out, play some basketball, learn some teamwork, and build some great friendships.
Volunteer coaches prowled the sidelines, offered some valuable direction, praised the excellent play, and consoled the children who struggled.
Included in the event was a standing room only crowd of parents cheering on their sons and daughters. The parents live by the credo that engaged families mean happy and successful children.
Recreation Leader III Vivian Sandoval staffed the scorers' table and said the games and practices happen during the week and on Saturday and is a lot of fun.
"Especially watching the little kids," she said. "There are boys and girls. I like watching the excitement on their faces. They get to learn sportsmanship."
The kids learn about the fundamentals of basketball, and she does, as well.
"All the parents get involved," Sandoval said. "We have volunteer coaches, and all the parents get involved 100 percent. It's great to watch them come out and support the kids."
Amanda Fagan brought her son Johnny and said the kids are having a great time and learning how to play basketball.
"It's a school team, so they encourage each other through their class," she said. "They like to run around and use up their energy, and they never get tired at this age. This is their first season, so they've been playing for a few months. It's a short season."
Eric Gonzales said his son Eric Emiliano loves playing.
"It's their first time playing, and they're having a ball," he said. "It's awesome to see him play."
Dad laughed and said he doesn't offer any pointers.
"That's why he has his coach," he said. "I stay out of that."
Ester Gonzales is proud watching her son play.
"This is his first season," she said. "Dad has him play soccer, and I wanted him to play basketball and make home more well-rounded. The PAL is a great place to figure that out. He plays on the PAL soccer team. I played here when I was a little too."
Claudia Martinez said her son Julian was playing and having fun.
"I tell him to have fun and do his best," she said. "He's really enjoying this."
Oxnard Assistant City Attorney Jason Zaragoza had a nephew warming up, and he was ready to watch some basketball.
"I sit on the PAL Board, and I am the vice president," he said. "My nephew plays for PAL, so I try to come out as much as possible. This is my second game of the season."
He's a busy new dad as his son was born on Dec. 16.
"I have a two-year-old daughter, so I am trying to catch sleep," he said. "We've got a boy and a girl, so we're done."
He plans to get his kids involved with the PAL at a young age and noted that parents engaged with their kids means happier kids as they mature.
"In my experiences with the recreation program, the kids are playing in the games, and they are looking in the audience that's there are parents to support them," he said. "That alone gives them the opportunity to push and do better. But also, the involvement in day-to-day activities, like homework and schoolwork, the more engaged the parents are, the more likely it is that the child will succeed."
After the game, Johhny Fagan was overwhelmed by all the excitement, and although he didn't know why, he loved playing with his team.
"It's fun," he said. "I'm going to Skating Plus."
Colonia Coach Fernando Barra said the team played well.
"We could have done some things better, but a lot of them are first-year players, so they're still getting the hang of it," he said. "This week, we are going to work on our defense and our rebounding. We have to make sure we get those rebounds."
He considers parent involvement to be a vital part of helping a child mature successfully.
"We support our kids in every endeavor they want to do in life," he said. "They weren't going to have a second-grade team, so I got involved, and we have a team this year."
Saint Anthony's Coach Kevin Martinez said the game was competitive, and they emerged with the victory.
"All I can ask for is my team to play hard," he said. "This week, we are going to work on dribbling with one-hand. There were a lot of double dribbles and travels. We have to know how to dribble before we can shoot."
For more information, visit the PAL at 350 South K Street