Three days a week, The Valparaiso Family YMCA experiences a lunch time rush hour of basketball players. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m every Monday. Wednesday, and Friday, a large group of people meet up in the gym to play basketball. These pickup games invite a sense of community that has been cultivated by the Valparaiso Family YMCA.
Dave Gallardo started playing at the YMCA 30 years ago and says a reason for staying is because of the comradery of the people there.
“It’s a great place not just for exercise, but for the community. A lot of the guys here are friends, so they take it beyond just the gym. You can feel comfortable coming here, you don’t have to be the guy who’s been working out and all buff and everything, we just come in here and play basketball and have a great time.”
The pick-up games benefit from the variety of people who show up to play. In the past there have been players who have never picked up a basketball to NBA pros. With each player on the court there is a different experience every game.
“We get a whole group of different types of people from all over,” Gallardo began, ”We have guys that have played professionally overseas, professionally for the NBA, and then a lot of Division 1 and Division 2 players, as well as guys that just like to come out and exercise. There’s no better workout than basketball.”
To not discourage players from having fun, they account for skill levels by having the competitive players on one side of the gym and the guys who like to play for fun on the other. There’s also room for people who just want to shoot without the game of give-and-take that comes with a game. About 30 people play, so there is always a rotation of people playing and people waiting to play while catching up and joking.
“He started this mess,” Gallardo jokes, as he points to a white-haired gentleman. “That’s Gary, he started all this, and he’s probably in better shape than all of these guys put together.”
Gary Germann is referred to as the godfather of the weekday pick-up games. He is 68 years old and has been playing basketball since childhood.
“When I first started coming to the Y, I was the only one here,” Germann says.
He has been playing regularly at the YMCA since he graduated from law school in 1973. He started as a criminal defense lawyer and made as time as he could to hit the gym.
“I would just come in, and shoot around, and a couple months later, a friend of mine joined me and we started playing one on one, and then before long it was 2 on 2 and before long we had four court basketball games.”
When asked why he’s continued this tradition for over 40 years, he simply says, “I like to play basketball. It’s one of my first loves. It keeps me young.”
Germann likes playing with the people he’s met as well. “They guys here are great. They’re competitive but fair and fun. It’s therapy for me. For a few hours, I can come here and forget about what I do.”
For more information on the Valparaiso Family YMCA, visit http://www.valpoymca.org/.