Open gym brings wide variety of community
The opening of the Baldwin High School gym that started about seven years ago has blossomed into a community event on Sunday evenings.
On Sunday evening at 6 p.m., Mike Everett opens the BHS gym to anyone wishing to play basketball for a couple of hours. He said he goes to the gym at about 3 or 4 p.m. to clean the floor with two wet towels.
"We are probably averaging between 35 and 40 people every week," Everett said. "We've got some moms and dads coming over and shooting with their kids. I think it's kind of a Baldwin tradition now."
Everett said around the time Allen Poplin became high school principal, he went to him and asked if he could start opening the gym on a regular basis.
"I went to Allen Poplin, and said is there someway we could create a position to where I could get a key for the gym," Everett said. "So he created the open gym supervisor."
Supt. James White said his policy on opening the gym to the public, is that if the district can, it will.
"It's been my policy, that if we can make them available for the public, then we should open them up," White said. "The public pays for it, so they should be able to use it."
When Everett began opening the Baldwin High School gym, he had to call people to show up and play.
"I would say it was probably '96 or '97 when we actually started it," Everett said. "I would call high school kids, and if we got eight or 10 people over there, we were tickled."
But Everett said the numbers have increased the last few years, even to where only one court is being used for a pick-up game.
"We used to run two floors all the time, then all of sudden we started get a bunch of elementary and junior high kids," Everett said. "We use one floor for the big kids, and the other court for anybody who just wants to shoot around."
Everett also said that the gym opens at 6 p.m., but there sometimes are people wanting to start earlier.
"We do it from six to eight o'clock or six to eight thirty, whatever," Everett said. "I've even got guys calling me at 5:40 asking me where I'm at. We start our first game at a quarter to six now. So it's really cool how it's just taken off. It's getting to be a whole lot of fun."
BHS girls head coach Eric Toot said he thinks it's good for kids to come in, but he doesn't stress it during the season.
"I think it's a good opportunity for kids who want to work on their game on their own, but we don't really stress it because we are usually going six days a week," Toot said. "And I think it's important for the kids to have at least one day off."
Toot also said the open gym is good for people that want to get better.
"It helps get people excited about basketball," Toot said. "Anytime you play, it's better than not playing, if you want to get better. But I think you also have to push yourself and work hard, or you don't get much benefit out of it."
All ages of people have shown up to play, parents, Baker students, high school students and even elementary kids. The east court is the competitive floor and is usually ninth grade and above, while the west floor is the non-competitive floor and used for shooting around.
Everett said he has had cheerleaders come into the weight room to practice during the open gym. He has also seen members of the volleyball team coming in to practice.
"It's not just limited to basketball only," Everett said.
One of the criticisms about the open gym is about liability if there is an injury that occurs. But Everett says he is making sure nothing happens, but he has seen a couple twisted ankles.
"It's one of the things I make sure doesn't happen," Everett said. "It hasn't been an issue, because I stay on top of things. I am there to be the supervisor. If anybody is there to loiter and cause trouble, I run them out. I am there to take the bull by the horns, so to speak."
He says he enjoys doing this, while trying to teach some of the kids about the game. But he said he also opens it, because he believes to be better, you must go to the gym.
"I'm from the old school. If you want to be a better basketball player, you've got to go to the gym," Everett said. "It's just turned out to be a whole lot of fun, and it's kind of neat to get to know some of the young kids. It's the camaraderie and the fact that it's a community event."