What do you get when you combine the YMCA's two gyms with approximately 20 motivated basketball players at 6 in the morning? The answer is camaraderie.
Basketball is nothing new to the YMCA. The sport was invented by James Naismith at the International YMCA?Training School in Springfield, Mass., in 1891.
At the Jamestown YMCA, which has been around for more than 150 years, you can hear the echoes of the basketball action every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.
Shown are some of the members of the YMCA AM basketball squad. In front from left are Rev. Al Meyers; Max Pickard; Don Christner; Bob Goold; Ryan Rambacher, holding a picture of absent player Mike Greiner; and Larry Hill. In back from left are Ricky Hooks, Omayra Mendoza, Reggie Smith, Tim Sears, Chris Herman, Jeff Benson, Eric Johnson, Guy DeMotte, Randy Elleman, Dave Levandowsky and Dupree Hall.
The squad, which ranges in age from 22 to over 60, has matching jerseys sporting "YMCA AM" on them, and welcomes players of any skill level or gender.
Max Pickard, Bob Goold and Don Christner are just some of the committed players that have been around the court for several years now.
Pickard, chief lending officer at Cattaraugus County Bank, remembers getting started with basketball nearly 20 years ago with John Sellstrom.
"I was helping Sellstrom get back into shape, and playing morning basketball was a great help," said Pickard. "I also used the basketball group as a positive outlet during some hardships in my life."
He recalls running the court with area ministers who wanted some fellowship.
"I used to play with reverends Tom Sweet, Rusty May and Bill Lindsay two days a week," Pickard said. "When Rusty and Bill retired, we also retired their jerseys."
Other past players included father and son teammates, Jamestown High School basketball team players, foreign exchange students, service recruits before leaving for their overseas tour, and previous YMCA members that moved out of town.
"Over the years, we met many interesting people who we have become friends with and shared fellowship and memories with here at the Y," Pickard said.
Christner, a property manager for The Resource Center, has been involved for more than 15 years and cherishes being a part of the group.
"I love the idea of camaraderie and playing ball the way it is intended with respect, no arguments and everyone getting along with each other," Christner said.
Christner usually plays basketball at the Y fives times a week and feels great after running with the group.
Goold, athletic director at Frewsburg Central School, remembers his first experience with the players.
"I was coming to the Y to lift and use the cardiovascular machines when I first started," said Goold, a YMCA board member and committee member. "One day, I stumbled on some guys playing basketball at 7 a.m. in the gym and joined them."
Due to several requests, the play time was moved to 6 a.m. and the program doubled in size as more people could come before heading to work.
"The proof is in the pudding," said Goold. "The folks keep coming and we all love it."