MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marines scrambled up and down court as their sneakers screeched against the hardwood floor. Players from both teams passed the basketball between each other almost instinctively anticipating each other’s moves. Arms and hands waved through the air for the chance to block the pass and return the ball to the opposing team’s hoop. Players dribbled, whistles were blown, and sweat from the brow of each player hit the floor. Every lay-up, jump shot, and assist was calculated and timed. Just as any other sport, players pushed with every step to outdo and out-maneuver their competitors.
Marine Corps Community Services began the Basketball League Jan. 6, 2014, and has 17 teams participating this season. The games for the league are held at the East Gym’s indoor basketball court.
MCCS Sports runs several intramural sport leagues on base for service members and their families to take part in, giving them a chance to compete and embrace the values of teamwork.
“We welcome as many people to participate as possible,” said James Burke, head official, MCCS Sports. “We want Marines to come out and stay active by doing these sports. If we can give Marines a way to stay in shape while having fun in their free time, we’ve accomplished what we’re trying to do.”
Allowing all Combat Center patrons to participate in the league allows for more diversity and a deeper roster for the coordinators to work with. Having more teams in the league also increases the level of competition.
“At the beginning of the season we started out with 20 teams,” said Thomas Burke, coach, Too Tight Basketball team. “Now that we’re a month in, the teams are getting more intense about each game and you can see it in the performance. The league currently has approximately 200 players.”
MCCS Sports holds the basketball league annually and intends to not only host a series of games but also a championship at the end of the season.
“At the end of the season, we’re taking the best teams from both divisions of the league and putting them head-to-head,” James said. “It’s good to see the competitiveness of Marines on the court. Many of them played in high school or college and after they joined the military, stopped playing. This league gives them an opportunity to play the sport they cherish.”
The championships at the end of the season will also have a runner up bracket for teams to still play for a title if they do not advance past the playoffs.
“Offering the secondary brackets allows the teams, whose record during the season wasn’t that great, to still compete for something,” James said.
For the coordinators, intramural leagues not only provide a competitive sports environment, but also a way for Marines to take their minds off of the stressful day-to-day workplace, according to Thomas.
“At the end of the day, we’re here for the service members and we hope sometime, down the road, the season gets longer or we host more,” James said. “We encourage Marines, sailors, and their families to come out and watch or join their unit’s team to participate. The basketball league is for people to go out and have fun and we want to be able offer that to those on base.”
The league is scheduled to conclude in mid-August.