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Fifth-Graders Organize Their Own Summer Wiffleball League

By Sydney Keane

Raising an ambitious incoming sixth grade son by the name of Logan, Kerry Vilorio has a lot of cause to be a proud Bellingham Middle School parent. However, when Logan came home one day at the end of June with a QR code printed on a piece of paper, Kerry was shocked to learn about the then week-old Bellingham Wiffleball League.

Naturally interested in her son’s newfound summer activity, Kerry followed the QR code’s link to the BWL’s website which Logan then informed her had been created by a friend’s olderbrother Ben Laren, as a Bellingham incoming eighth grader. 

“I scanned the code,” Kerry shared, “and saw a website showing approximately 30 fellow fifth graders listed team names, captains, rules, games schedules for multiple weeks as well as tournament brackets for future tournament purposes.”

But, not only was the website created by a student, the entire league had been organized and orchestrated by a group of Logan’s fifth grade classmates, including Ben’s younger brother Maxx Dylan Harris, and Morgan Henshaw.

Interestingly, the kids developed their own nontraditional rules for the BWL that account for the small-scale nature of the league and make for an interesting game. For example, the rules listed on the website include, but are not limited to, the following:

• All teams make playoffs

• Playoffs series are 2 games and a 3rd if needed.

• No corked bats. You cancustomize them, but not so many layers of tape.

• Doubleheaders count as one game

In conversation, Kerry elaborated on rule number three, explaining that the kids use custom bats designed by players on the team with colorful tapes and designs, intended for shared use among the six teams. In addition to bats, the players may also share roles on a team, subbing in for opposing team members if needed to keep the games going. 

For example, though Logan plays for the Western Wasps, if another BWL player is absent for any reason, Logan may be allowed to step in to play for the Pacific Pickles, the Northern Ninjas, Eastern Energy, the Atlantic Avengers, or the Coastal Comets. 

Of course, any kids’ league benefits endlessly from parent involvement, and several BWL parents were happy to step in as asked to provide their kids with team clothing and field scheduling. Ben and Maxx’s parents Brian and Vanessa Laren along with Shelly Dupuis, took it upon themselves to customize and distribute six different styles of t-shirts with the kids’ names to each of the six teams, which barely made it in time for the first games on June 23 and 24. The game schedule runs through July with the first round of playoffs scheduled for the weekend of July 23.

With support from the town fields on Harpen Street, the kids have been allowed to play an average of three scheduled games each week at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays. 

All assistance considered, the kids showed impressive initiative with the majority of planning occurring before parents had knowledge of the league’s existence until the night of the first game.

“...a Facebook message was created to a large group of us which were the parents of all children participating,” Kerry Vilorio shared, “The message stated that this really is a ‘thing’ and that the team names, schedule and tournament are really taking place. Many parents were not aware that this was even happening! I, as well as many of the other parents, are so impressed that a wonderful group of 5th graders were able to develop and complete this task from start to finish asking for absolutely no help from parents.”

Since the first game, the teams have played four weekends total, and according to parents in the audience, the kids have been getting more comfortable with running the league from all angles. This means that the kids call all plays themselves, and resolve any tension on the field by their own unique conflict resolution strategies. 

Though most games run smoothly, Kerry laughed as she told me about Brooke Harris who was in charge of working the radio for players’ “walk-up” songs, or the chosen songs that accompany each player as he or she walks onto the field. During one game, Brooke took it upon herself to switch the music to Frozen’s “Let It Go” during a bout of confusion over a play to remind players to keep it calm on the fields and enjoy the fun, summer spirits of the wiffleball league that they worked so hard to create for themselves. 

In another attempt to improve the game for everyone involved, a player by the name of Spencer Lavallee brought a newly purchased radar gun to a recent game to show the speed of the wiffle ball pitches during the Wasps/Avengers game.

For those looking to attend any games, visit the BWL website for a schedule.

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