Like father, like son — on and off the court

Father-son duo and Moorestown Rec. basketball coaches Jim and Ryan Walk talk sport, life.

Moorestown residents Jim (right) and Ryan Walsh (left) have brought a special dynamic to the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Boy’s Basketball League Despite neither having a child enrolled in the league, the pair is eager to bring their know-how and passion to Moorestown youth.

Pull into the Church Street Recreation Center on a Sunday afternoon at the top of the hour, and you’ll see a steady stream of teenagers exchanging excited pleasantries — and maybe the occasional good-natured trash talk — as they make their way to the recreation center’s basketball court. The Department of Parks and Recreation’s Boy’s Basketball League has reached new heights this winter.

Recreation Center staffer Cyndi Britton, who coordinates the league, said this year Parks & Rec saw the most participation to date with almost 100 high school boys enrolled constituting 14 teams. She said interest was at an all-time high this year, and with a father-son duo at the helm of one of the teams, this winter has been a particularly exciting season.

Britton said the league started in 2005 and had around six teams. In the last few years, Parks & Rec has had sufficient enrollment to create 10 teams, but this year, there was an increase in high school seniors signing up, which called for additional coaches, Britton said.

The league runs for eight weeks. Sign-ups and the call for volunteer coaches go out in October. Britton said Moorestown residents Jim and Ryan Walsh have brought a special dynamic to the league. Despite neither having a child enrolled in the league, the pair is eager to bring their know-how and passion to Moorestown youth.

Nicholas Kowalskii (left center in white) reaches for the ball as Christopher Furze (right center in orange) gets some air as their teammates cluster around eager for the ball. The two teams dueled it out as part the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Boy’s Basketball League on Sunday, Jan. 28.

Jim, 52, said he grew up playing basketball and passed that passion down to his son Ryan, 25. He said in his eyes, basketball has some valuable skills to teach the next generation. From learning to share to getting along with others, these skills can translate directly into the workplace, Jim said.

“There’s a lot of similarities between sports and the game of life,” Jim said.

Jim got involved in the league when Ryan was in high school, and despite his son outgrowing the league, he has stayed involved since. He said he sees the league as an another opportunity for students who don’t have the time or skill level to make a high school team to play competitively.

On a high school team, there are five players on the court at a time with around seven or eight players in rotation, Jim said. The Parks & Rec league, however, has spots for nine players on each team, with coaches ensuring everyone gets equal play time.

Ryan said he fondly recalls the energy that surrounded the league when he was at Moorestown High School. He said he and his friends looked forward to competing on Sundays and would exchange some light-hearted “trash talk” in anticipation of a game.

He said the joy the league brought him as a high school student was part of the reason he wanted to get involved alongside his father this year.

“I really just love basketball and being around the game, and I knew they needed people,” Ryan said.

The league takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays in January through March, with a new game kicking off every hour. Jim said his role as coach is primarily to ensure everyone gets playing time, everyone gets along and everyone has a chance to make a basket.

While Jim no longer plays, he said he’s eager to continue coaching and share his knowledge. Jim said Parks & Rec’s program is one of the select few in the area that gives high school students the opportunity to play competitively.

“If you pass something on that you learned over the years to a kid, you get some satisfaction out of it, so it’s a win-win for everybody,” Jim said.

At the end of the day, for both Jim and Ryan, their roles as coaches come down to a love for Moorestown.

“I’ve always tried to give back to the community, and then, I’ve tried to pass that trait along to my son,” Jim said. “I think you can always give back — especially if it’s something you enjoy.”

Sign ups are currently closed with the league in competition through March.