Jai-Alai Chalk Talk Hall of Fame

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Posted on February 27, 2008 at 05:33:55 PM by panch0

IMHO... teaching people how to play (not just inviting them to the fronton) is key to building a suport base for the sport.

Sure it is exciting to watch but I think when people, and specially kids, put on a cesta and experience the excitement of throwing a ball around is when they can relate to the sport and adopt it as part of their identity.

I have strapped a cesta on 653 kids this year at my school to experience that excitement of throwing the ball. I have been very surprised that although the experience is very new to my students, it is not for many parents of my students. In fact, a large number of the parents have fond memories of going to the fronton with their parents or grandparents during their childhood. I have found that even a few of my parents or someone ralated to them, did play or tried to play Jai Alai in the past. I even get a good kick out of parents coming to my office to ask me if they can use a cesta! Of course we are talking about the late 70's or even 80's years when the state of Jai Alai was a lot healthier than today and so the fact is that at one point Jai Alai was a big part of Miami culture.

What has changed?

Two things quickly come to mind (don't forget I am a teacher in Miami):

1) Orbea's Fronton
2) Miami Jai Alai School

These 2 hotbeds of Jai Alai produced hundreds of professional players... all born and/or raised right here in South Florida! It is the 'remains' of these 2 schools which presently represents the 'leftovers' of the pinnacle of Jai Alai culture of South Florida.

What I am surprised is not being done:

1) No support from either MIami Jai Alai or Dania Jai Alai. IMHO, both frontones should have a school to develop the local Jai Alai roots. After all... can't they afford it?

2) The Profesional Jai Alai Players Association (Sorry if I don't call it the proper name!) should also be doing something to grow some type of grassroots. Perhaps associating themselves with an afterschool program, or volunteering time to teach kids how to play [maybe with Parks and Recreation]. After all... whomever they teach might be the ones to upkeep their profession!! Hey, other than Benny, I don't see one single pelotari trying to teach or volunteer to teach kids!

As a Phys Ed teacher, I can tell you that sometimes I get a little frustrated not to have a wall (let's not even mention a small fronton!!) to have my students throw the ball at school. If I at least had a wall... I could play with my students 'a la Plaza Libre' as they do in France.

As a wannabe player (yes... I have being trying to play in the last month!), I also get frustrated that theres no places other than Miami Amateur to play in (hey, thanks to Luis for keeping that open!) as Miami Amateur is far from my house and it also costs me a fee which is a little costly for me (which I totally understand Luis needs to have paid so that in turn he can pay the rent!!)

Unfortunately, at the end of the day is all about money! Whether the frontones make enough money to 'rebuild' Jai Alai by opening schools and hiring teachers... whether players make enough money or a stipend to teach kids how to play...

Time will tell whether the 'maquinitas' are the savior of Jai Alai, or the nails in the coffin!

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