Way back in the 1960’s my father Harvey Kulchin and Shibley Camp did something unique and revolutionary for youth athletics. We lowered the baskets on the basketball courts and reduced the size of the sports fields. Why should little children be playing on the same height baskets as professional basketball players who average around 6 foot 7 inches in height? So my father, an experienced physical education teacher and school principal, lowered many baskets around camp to 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 feet to accommodate the wide age range of our campers. In an article published in Newsday on August 1, 1982 John C. Bell, co-owner and husband of Jeanne Shibley Bell, felt that “When you are dealing with children, you should consider what children are capable of doing.” It sounds like common sense, but it was not common practice.
Dad said, “Sports are fun when success is attainable.” It was evident that he was right, as more children were drawn to the camp’s basketball courts immediately after they were lowered. Besides allowing for more success and fun, children were now learning proper technique for shooting rather than heaving the ball towards regulation sized baskets. He knew the same would be true for all sports! What is better than a child hitting an actual home run out of the park!? We also developed a junior tennis program with smaller courts, racquets AND user friendly balls specifically designed for beginners.
Shibley developed “a cornucopia of custom-tailored athletic facilities for children from 3 to 13 years old,” as described by the author of the Newsday article, Mike Candel. The results were tremendous and it was clear that children were enjoying sports and developing athletic skills at an early age. These concepts which were new 50 years ago are common place today.
I’ve been at camp my whole life and love to talk history. Always feel free to email me at Robert@shibleydaycamp.com if you have any stories from the past that you want to share.