The Super Bowl celebrations are still going on. Throughout the course of the game, there were a couple of mentions about players who grew up in New Orleans coming home for the big game.
The thrill may be just a little greater for them for that reason, but it serves to point out that players come from all around to form a team. Those players, Baltimore safety Ed Reed as an example, went off to college elsewhere and played their professional games elsewhere. In the meantime, they had to form bonds with new team members who also came from other places. Boundaries disappear when it comes to sports.
The growing popularity of “travel” sports has increased the likelihood that today’s youth will be exposed to more than the kids in their own neighborhoods or school playgrounds. Just a generation ago, all of your friends lived within walking distance, but that’s not the case anymore. Your friends, your teammates may live as far as 20 miles away. In a big county like Polk County, it could be even more.
In youth baseball, these travel teams find similar squads throughout the local area, the state and even the multi-state region to hone their skills, on and off the field. None of this development could be possible with a great amount of support, which comes from parents, families and the community.
Team Avalanche is one such travel squad. These players in the 9U (9 & Under) classification spent last season coming together as a unified squad. The team, which is operated as a non-profit entity based in Eagle Lake, has brought players together from Bartow, Eagle Lake, Dundee, Auburndale and Lakeland. In some situations, they could be opponents, but when they wear the colors of Team Avalanche, they are teammates. When the teammates come off the field, they are friends, regardless of where they get their mail.
While the sports side of it is important, it’s more than winning or losing baseball games. The teammates/friends join together for community activities at the different communities throughout the county. they passed out cookies and sang to residents of Life Care Center in Winter Haven. They had fun dressing up at Halloween time. They gathered to celebrate a teammate’s birthday. They pull together often, knowing that their strength on and off the field can come from their unity.
With the new year under way, the momentum gained by the team in 2012 has to continue. The way it continues is through additional playing time. Team Avalanche is currently taking steps to increase community financial support in hopes of getting a chance to play more games and, in the process, gain more lifelong experiences that mold the youth in a positive direction. Plans include games in South Florida, lake City and then Valdosta, Georgia in hopes of getting enough success to qualify for the World Series at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in August.
Think about how great it would be to have a Polk County team win a World Series where we could watch. It’s just like those players who grew up in New Orleans winning a Super Bowl in the town of their youth.
Community support can be directed to Team Avalanche, 1155 Eleanore Ave., Bartow, FL 33830. Contributions are tax deductible since the team is a non-profit organization.
For the middle school students at Bartow Middle School, a new season got under way yesterday, part of the school’s athletic programs. Girls and boys are hitting the soccer field for the start of the latest competition, which opened yesterday. Games are played at Bartow High School’s athletic stadium.
Bartow Middle is part of the “West Cluster” in the county scheduling process. The teams play all games on Tuesdays. Yesterday’s games were against Lake Gibson Middle School.
Girls’ games get under way at 6 p.m. with the boys’ games immediately following. Bartow will be hosting Lakeland Highlands Middle School on Feb. 12 before going to Auburndale High to play Stambaugh Middle on Feb. 19. The teams have a bye week with no game scheduled on Feb. 26. Bartow Middle returns to action on March 5 at Mulberry with the Mulberry Middle School utilizing the Mulberry High School field. The Mulberry game is the final scheduled game for the Bartow boys team. The girls wrap up their season on March 12 against Rochelle School of the Arts (which only fields a girls team).