Some members of the Bowie Boys and Girls Club basketball program are upset they don’t have a chance to put the ‘practice makes perfect’ motto to the test.
Out of around 80 basketball teams, only about third are able to practice each week because of a decreasing amount of available gym space.
The club uses Bowie school facilities to hold practices for some of its sports teams free of charge, but a recent city assessment showed that the Bowie Boys and Girls Club has been granted approximately half the gym, track and field time it was in 2009. The assessment revealed the South Bowie Boys and Girls Club also experienced reductions in practice time available to them at school facilities.
“There have been a significant cutbacks in gym time over the past few years,” said Dwayne Gray, commissioner of basketball at the Bowie Boys and Girls Club. “We’re not able to provide [players] with an adequate amount of gym time to prepare them for games.”
The Bowie City Council sent a formal letter to the Prince George’s County Public School system on June 3, asking whether the practice times could possibly be increased. City staff noted that Bowie is planning a new indoor sports facility to accommodate space concerns, but that the structure will not be completed until December 2018.
“[The reduction in gym time] greatly impedes the ability of these organizations to provide indoor recreational activities from November to March when they are most needed,” the letter stated. “We would suggest a meeting between the appropriate City and School Board staff to further review this matter and see if an increase in hours can be established going forward.”
Max Pugh, a spokesman for the county school system, said that school facility rental decisions are up to individual principals and school staff.
“Prince George’s County Public Schools are open for use by community organizations,” he said. “Each school principal is responsible for making every reasonable effort in seeing that the building is available for use by non-school organizations.”
At Bowie High School, the facility hours donated to the Bowie Boys and Girls Club were cut from 528 per year in 2009 to 312 in 2013, according to the city of Bowie’s assessment.
Jessica Brandt, Bowie High School’s athletic director, said one reason for the change is a new policy that allows coaches to work with students during the off season and gives them use of the gym.
“In the evenings, our gyms are taken up,” she said. “ For us, it’s a priority for our high school kids to have use of their own gyms.”
Brandt said the school also reduced the Boys and Girls Club use of the track by one day this year because of community complaints that the club was monopolizing the space.
“The community is supposed to be able to walk the track whenever it’s not school times,” she said. “We had complains from the community that they couldn’t even use their own track.”
Byron Tucker of Bowie, a volunteer basketball coach whose 7-year-old son plays for the club’s basketball team, said the cutback in facility availability negatively affects the students involved.
“It’s hard for us to understand why [the gym time] is being decreased,” he said. “We all know that practice time makes better players, so if you don’t have practice time, how can you really prepare for games?”
Dwayne Preston, deputy chief of the Bowie Police Department, said organizations like the Bowie Boys and Girls Club and team sports offer vital community services.
“The involvement in sports provides a great outlet for our youth in the city,” he said. “It’s important for them to be involved in organized activity as it instills in them a sense of teamwork and responsibility.”