Old Catonsville: Basketball officials add to winning experience for young players

They are the only two people on the basketball court that no one roots for during a game.

But Rick Russell and Sandy Sanders, who have been basketball referees for 30 years, don't mind.

"Rick and Sandy understand the mission of our league and care about the children," said Duncan McTaggart, chairman of the Catonsville Recreation Council's boys basketball program, in an email. "They are able to adapt their style of officiating to the competition level of each age group so that the boys get the most from the game.

"When a kid struggles to keep up with his peers, they will keep a special eye out for him. I have seen them go out of their way several times to make sure that a boy gets at least one point for a season," he wrote.

"They get to know the boys by name and enjoy tracking their progress as they grow up," McTaggart wrote. "Sometimes, they will tell me stories about where kids are now that once played in our league."

Russell, an aerospace engineer by day, said he enjoys seeing players develop.

"I watch kids start to play at age 6 up to age 18," he said. "Now, I watch former players' kids on the court."

He started officiating in college and loves the game.

He has lived off Newburg Avenue for 26 years with his wife, Lydia. His three children are 27, 25 and 23.

During basketball season, Russell and Sanders are on the court five or six nights a week, officiating boys and girls in-house recreation and travel leagues in Catonsville and Arbutus, as well as the high school games for Baltimore County.

Spectators may recognize Russell as the official who spins the ball on one finger during time outs.

Sanders, an Arbutus native, played basketball at Lansdowne High in 1979 and for what was then Catonsville Community College from 1981 to 1982.

"I enjoy the interaction with the kids and the fans," said Sanders, an electrician with Blankenship Electric. "I try to teach kids life lessons during the game."

In addition to making calls on the court, the two men also make the calls for assigning officials to the games.

"One of the secrets to good officiating is 'controlling the gym' — keeping the parents from getting too intense and losing track of the games being a fun event for the kids of the community. Rick and Sandy do a great job of keep a light atmosphere that takes the edge off and keeps everyone at peace," McTaggart said in the email. "Many Catonsville families look forward to coming to the gym in Catonsville on a winter Saturday. Rick and Sandy are a big part of that."

Hi-tech way to check out books

Did you get a Kindle for Christmas?

Baltimore County Public Library offers free downloadable eBooks.

Follow the easy, step-by-step process at http://www.bcpl.info/downloadables to download titles to a home PC, and then upload to an e-reader device, such as Nooks, Kindles, etc.

"There may be a long reserve list for new and popular eBook titles, just as there would be for our new and popular print titles," cautioned Catonsville Library Manager Melissa Gotsch in an email.

"The eBooks are there, but we have to share the copies with many other customers. BCPL is in a consortium with other Maryland libraries, and we share digital content with other counties as a way to provide the largest number of titles at the lowest cost," she wrote.

Also, check out the new BCPL website. http://www.bcplonline.org.

"The site offers improved search ability and streamlined access," said Jim D'Armey, the library system's Information Services Department Coordinator, who started shelving books at the Catonsville Library in 1974 while still a student at Catonsville High. "We looked at page statistics and changed the navigation process so customers can get to information with fewer clicks."

School news

Westowne Elementary School will install several interactive white boards this spring, thanks to a technology fundraising drive that raised $12,500 for the Harlem Lane school.

The effort was spearheaded by the leadership of Marlene Shapiro, the school's technology and integration teacher, according to Principal Patricia Vogel.

Donations are still being accepted. For information, go to http://westownees.bcps.org or call 410-887-0854.

The University of Maryland Gymkana Team will visit St. Agnes School Feb. 10 at 10:45 a.m.

Among those performing during the two-hour event are two former St. Agnes students, Joe Kreft and Dominique Parkes.

Many of you may remember the acrobatics team from its television appearance on "America's Got Talent."

Sold on consignment shop

I bought a pair of beautiful Kenneth Cole suede pants for $10 at Doris' Closet, the new consignment shop at 81 Mellor Avenue.

The store, named in honor of store owner Nancy Klein's good friend, Doris Van Doren, sells used, vintage consignment clothes, accent furniture pieces and home decor.

"Doris and I used to shop together and always talked about opening our own shop. She passed away three years ago and I decided to do it," said Klein, Ellicott City resident. "I feel like she's here with me."

In addition to designer suits, jackets, skirts, pantsuits and blouses, the store offers accessories such as shoes, boots, handbags, scarves and jewelry, put on display by store assistant Catherine Joanny.

The store is open Tuesdays through Sundays with spring items accepted after February 1.

For information, go to http://www.doriscloset.com or call 410- 747-1956.

Helping families cope

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is sponsoring a free 12-week course for close relatives of individuals with severe mental illness.

The course at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 905 Frederick Rd., teaches the clinical treatment of major mental illness and the knowledge and skills that family members need to cope more effectively. It begins Tuesday, Feb. 21, 7-9:30 p.m.

Topics include: Communication skills, coping techniques, brain biology, medication and advocacy.

It is offered by NAMI, Metropolitan Baltimore, a grass roots, family-oriented support, education and advocacy organization dedicated to helping families alleviate the suffering and combat the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

For information, call Deneice Valentine at 410-435-2600 or email her at dvalentine@nami.org.

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