I was a skinny book-reading nerd. I had no athletic ability and no desire to be an athlete. Growing up, it had become painfully obvious very early on that I was ill suited for sports.
My high school class had just over 40 people. Despite our numbers, we were an athletic powerhouse in the region. The boy’s gym teacher was also the basketball coach. Entering my sophomore year in high school, the coach approached me and asked if I was interested in running the score clock for basketball games.
I suppose the coach saw an earnest and conscientious boy who he hoped that he could rely upon. I was overwhelmed, on the other hand, to be asked to be a part of what would be a dominating basketball program over the next three years.
We began in the old gym, where sometimes things did not work and out of bounds was a wall two feet past the lines of the court. I sat with the former clock operator for a couple of games and then I was on my own. The statistician sat next to me. If there was a question, we figured it out together.
They built a new gym and the next two years felt like a move to the pros. All the switches worked on the control pad. The lights and the horn on the scoreboard always functioned. There were some new features that made timekeeping a lot easier.
All the while he coached and we beat team after team. I would bring the half time stats to the locker room for him. After one poor showing at the line, I can still recall him screaming “There’s a reason it’s called a free throw!”
Senior year, my first date ever was to a sectional basketball game. As a team member, I got in free but at the sectionals I took a date and sat in the stands. We lost in the finals but it was a day that I will never forget.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for Gil Yates. Whatever he saw in me put me in the gym and at basketball games that I would never have gone to on my own. I learned responsibility and how to work with others. And, I would never have had that date if I was not a part of the basketball experience at Arkport Central School.