BY KATHY PICKENS
The Greenville Standard
After the Fort Dale Academy basketball season of 1988 ended, varsity coach Billy Welch and a group of parents including Bobby Rogers, Charles Newton, and Ed Sims began an elementary intramural basketball program.
With 24 players on four teams composed of boys from 4th through 6th grades, a tradition began that has lasted 35 years and became an important part of the school’s culture.
That first year Newton and Rogers both coached a team along with then high school seniors David Scott and Kenneth Till. Two years later four girls’ teams were added into the mix.
Eventually, the grade levels would expand to include 3rd and 4th grades, and the season would overlap with the regular basketball season.
Parent volunteer Rebecca Butts participated in the program as a 5th grader. She currently coordinates the league and said that Scott dubbed her the “commish” of what has become known as FDA PeeWee Nation.
“Our peewee league is a great way for boys and girls to get involved in a sport, be a part of a team, and fellowship with students throughout the school.
“Peewee Nation also gives parents and older students an opportunity to volunteer, give back to Fort Dale, and be a part of the success of our program,” said Butts.
Previous commissioners who followed the founding group include Ronnie Paulk, Todd Norman, Glenn Branum and Warren Matthews.
In the wonderful full-circle way of small communities Scott began coaching again seven years ago, this time with a team that included his own 3rd-grade son.
Speaking on the program then and now Scott remarked, “I knew it was going to take off and be a great thing for FDA. I never dreamed it would grow the way it has though.
“There were so many people along the way who took the ball and ran with it, improving the program since those early days.
“Like many things at Fort Dale, I consider this league an investment in our children’s futures that pays dividends down the road. As a coach, that is my intent whether each child stays involved in basketball or not.”
Today there are five girls’ teams and five boys’ teams populated by 105 students and coached by parent volunteers.
Varsity basketball players run the clocks, keep the books, and serve as referees. They have a six-game season which will end with a round-robin tournament on Feb 5.
The 6th graders will also be formed into boys and girls teams to compete in the 6th-grade tournament in Selma on Jan. 29.
PeeWee Nation is also enjoying their second year with access to the new gym, doubling the space for practice and games and the continued growth of the program.