Elite hoops clinic is only the tip of the iceberg for Gametime Sport Academy

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Jamie ReddYouth who are serious about playing sports will now have another choice when it comes to training camps and clinics.

Gametime Sport Academy is bringing its elite training program to Woodinville.

Founded by Derek Sparks, author of “Lessons of the Game,” and former WSU football player, Gametime is an organization dedicated to student athletes.

Its upcoming clinic is geared specifically to basketball players, ages 12-18, who are looking to improve their game.

The program will focus on skills and incorporate a range of drills involving dribbling, passing and shooting.

Jamie Redd, a former WNBA player and UW all-time leading scorer, will head up the sessions, along with a cadre of accredited assistants.

Gametime got started 12 years ago with the release of Sparks’ book and the subsequent ESPN Sports Center documentary about his life, entitled, “The Derek Sparks Story.”

The Texas native, who grew up playing football in the small town of Wharton was one of the most coveted athletes in the country.

“I had an uncle in California and when I was in junior high, I sent him a tape of me playing football,” explains Sparks. “He showed it to some schools out there and then orchestrated deals to have them fly me to California. I ended up playing for four different high schools in four years. I played for both public and private schools. They lured me with tons of gifts, like free tuition, free places to stay, expensive cars to drive and more. But, there were strings attached to all of these things. Everyone wanted to cash in on my talent.”

He adds, “It was all illegal and improper, of course, because schools aren’t allowed to do those things, but they did and then it all got ugly. My experiences and the controversy that surrounded me during all of this later became the subject of my book, as well as of an ESPN documentary.”

Sparks was highly recruited out of high school and ended up at WSU, where he played tailback.

He admits that his college career was subpar, as injuries kept him from reaching his potential.

Instead of a glorious record, however, he ended up with something better, something more valuable — a college education and a degree in business.

“When you come from hardship, like Jamie (Redd) and I, education makes all the difference,” says Sparks. After graduation, he went on to a variety of careers, including being a football coach at a small college, where he always made sure to emphasize academics to his players.

He began making the rounds at different high schools, giving inspirational and motivational speeches to students.

He shared his story, and with it a valuable message for his audiences.

“Success involves work,” he told them. “It means applying yourself, being goal-driven, focusing and staying away from distractions and out of harm’s way.

“It also means believing in yourself and having confidence that you can accomplish what you set out to do.”

In the process, Sparks came up with “Gametime” as his mantra.

It eventually evolved into a brand and spun off into a variety of areas, including designing and manufacturing athletic apparel for schools.

“I use this arm of the business to fund the intervention work — all the afterschool programs I do in collaboration with other organizations,” comments Sparks. “These are programs to help keep kids off the streets, such as open gyms, arts and crafts classes, cooking classes, dance and academic prep classes.”

For Sparks, Gametime transcends sports and his hope for it to develop into a full service academy for athletes.

“I want to be able to prepare these kids for life so when they move on to college, they will be the best they can be in all areas.

“I especially want them to understand about the educational opportunities available to them.”

He adds, “It’s really about harnessing energy, setting goals and developing skills. And for me, it’s all about giving back to the community.”

What: Gametime Elite Training Camp Hoops Clinic for youth, featuring former WNBA player Jamie Redd
When: Saturday, April 27, (morning session for ages 12-14, afternoon for ages 15-18)
Where: Gold Creek Tennis and Sports Club in Woodinville
Cost: $50 if you register by April 15; normally $60 per person
To register: Call (206) 571-1433 or visit

‘Trails’ is a story worth telling

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Trails Photo
“Trails” runs through April 21 at Village Theatre in Issaquah. Courtesy photo
There’s much to like about “Trails,” the new musical having its world premiere at Village Theatre in Issaquah.

To start, Jen Zeyl’s imposing mountain set is artfully constructed and beautifully lit by Roger Aguilar. Though inert, it is a place of action for the actors and they use it a myriad of creative ways as they take their memorable journey.

The show, written by Christy Hall with music by Jeff Thomson and lyrics by Jordan Mann, tells a simple tale of two 30-something friends, underachiever, nice guy, Seth (Joshua Carter) and self-assured, take-charge lawyer, Mike (Dane Stokinger), who set out to hike the full length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Their trek proves to be more than just a sightseeing endeavor and a physical challenge made impulsively to fulfill a childhood promise. It’s an opportunity to retreat from the daily grind and take time for some deep soul searching and self-introspection.

Along the way, the men learn some valuable lessons as they attempt to heal from loss, while trying to mend a broken friendship. The story unfolds between the present day and flashbacks to the characters’ childhood, where they are joined by their ever faithful gal pal, Amy (Kirsten deLohr Helland). She is the spunky, adventurous leader of the trio, who inspires the boys and navigates their course of maturity from childhood’s imaginary escapades to the harsher realities of adulthood.

She is also the one that ultimately comes between them and causes their friendship to fracture.

While hiking, the men wrestle with their individual demons and each receives advice from fellow trekkers (Bobbi Kotula, Sarah Rose Davis and John Patrick Lowrie) on the route, who share their experiences and sage-like wisdom.

The music moves the action along while providing insight into the events of the past and the nature of the decisions made by the characters.

Vocally, the production is very strong, as the actors are consummate, talented performers, who sing with passion and conviction. Their voices soar and sparkle. Lowrie’s powerful baritone in “Purgatory Blues” is especially memorable.

Unfortunately, despite a few notable numbers (i.e. the wonderful, “Miles of Time” and the bluesy, “The Road is My Home”), the predominantly melodic pop score does little to distinguish itself. After a while, most of the songs begin to sound similar. Their message, however, is worthwhile. Life is a journey and the paths we take are determined by the choices we make and their ensuing consequences.

“Trails” runs through April 21st at Village Theatre in Issaquah and at the Everett Performing Arts Center, April 26-May 19. For ticket information: (425) 392-2202 or

Polar Bear Poem Party is an annual tradition at Arrowhead

  • Written by Deborah Stone
polar bear poem party 003
Teacher Amanda Budwill’s second grade class waits patiently to recite “The Polary-Bear” by Shel Silverstein. Staff Photo/Deborah Stone
Every child in Mandy Budwill’s second grade class at Arrowhead Elementary knows Shel Silverstein’s, “The Polary-Bear.”

The students all learn to memorize and recite the humorous poem and many never forget it, even years later.

Some continue to return to the school as they get older to join Budwill and her class at the annual Polar Bear Poem Party, where they get the opportunity to recite the poem once again.

This special event was set in motion 18 years ago.

“My second graders memorize and recite poems every week,” explains Budwill. “We keep a poetry notebook and frequently reread our favorites. For some reason, my first class really loved and remembered the Polar Bear poem. The next year when my class was reciting it, the third graders wanted to return and say it with them. So they did.

“Then the following year, the third and fourth graders returned to recite with us, and the tradition just continued. Now we have students from Kenmore Junior High, Northshore Junior High, Inglemoor and once in a while, even college students who return. We only recite that one poem every year at this event.”

Last year, Budwill notes there were over 100 students who participated. She adds, “I think they return for the tradition, the polar bear cookies, the prizes for seniors and the fun!”

The children in Budwill’s current class recite first. Then each group follows in grade level order. Seniors recite last and each receives a small remembrance token. Then everyone eats cookies and Budwill gets a chance to visit with her former students.

polar bear poem party 009
Kenmore and Northshore Junior High students return to Arrowhead Elementary to recite the poem at the yearly Polar Bear Poem Party at Arrowhead. Staff Photo/Deborah Stone
Take Chloe Jarvis, for example. The Kenmore Junior High ninth grader has been coming to the event since she was in second grade.

“Mrs. Budwill is one of my favorite teachers,” she says. “She’s really the only teacher I know who does something like this and I think it’s just so memorable for the kids. It brings everyone back together. And the poem is so cute and catchy, too.”

Lindsay Starostka has attended the party every year except one. She says, “It’s just such a great tradition and Mrs. Budwill is a wonderful teacher. I student taught for her last year and it was such a good learning experience. She handles kids so well and knows how to discipline without sounding mean. She is really skilled in the classroom.”

Kaitlyn Hollis, also a senior at IHS, is another veteran of the event. “I never missed a year,” she notes. “I love the poem and the tradition is unique and special. It’s something I wanted to do ever since I was in second grade and heard about it.”

Budwill describes the event as “organized chaos,” but comments that it is very heartwarming for her to see the interest kids have for both the poem and the tradition.

The local teacher believes that reading and memorizing poetry builds basic reading skills, such as phonics, rhyming, phrasing and fluency. She also feels that it strengthens memory practice and increases one’s confidence in the ability to stand and recite in a group.

She adds, “Memorizing a poem gives students a feeling of accomplishment and pride.”

Budwill’s class studies polar bears and other Arctic animals as part of their nonfiction reading and informational writing unit. Additionally, they spend time discussing global warming and the plight of the polar bears, as well as incorporate this learning with some map study skills.

The Polar-y Bear

By Shel Silverstein

There’s a polar-y bear

In the fridge-idy -dare.

He likes it ‘cause it’s cold in there.

With his seat in the meat

And his face in the fish

And his hairy old paw in the buttery dish.

Well, he’s sucking up the noodles

And he’s munching on the rice

And he’s slurping up the sodas

And he’s crunching on the ice.

When you open the door,

He gives out a ROAR!

It gives me a scare

To know he’s in there

The polar-y bear

In the fridge-idy -dare.

Get in the Nordic spirit with a visit to the Nordic Heritage Museum

  • Written by Deborah Stone
nordic heritage
The Nordic Heritage Museum is located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Staff photo/Deborah Stone
Seattle is a city of museums, ranging from the renowned Seattle Art Museum and Pacific Science Center to the more esoteric Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum.

And then there’s the Nordic Heritage Museum, a center of Scandinavian culture that although small in scale, is internationally recognized as a place where people of all backgrounds can be inspired by the traditions and spirit of the Nordic peoples.

Seattle was an important place of settlement for Scandinavians in the Pacific Northwest and the Nordic influence on the city was very strong for many years.

The Nordic Heritage Museum is testament to this influence and was created to help preserve and promote the Nordic culture in the region.

The center opened its doors to the public in 1980 and over the years it has steadily expanded its permanent exhibits, collections and programming.

Within the approximately 50,000 square-foot building (formerly Daniel Webster Elementary), there are 11 galleries, three classrooms, an auditorium, seven administrative offices, two libraries and a gift shop.

On the first floor, visitors will find “The Dream of America,” a permanent exhibit detailing the story of immigration told through a series of dioramas that show how Scandinavians made their way across the Atlantic and landed in New York.

From there, they headed to the Midwest, then the Great Plains and finally to the Pacific Northwest, ending in Ballard. Displays show the growth and development of a typical small Northwest community, complete with post office, church, drugstore, blacksmith shop and a family dwelling.

On the second floor, “The Promise of the Northwest,” another permanent exhibit, encompasses two galleries, focusing on the logging and fishing industries, which employed many immigrants who brought their skills with them from the old country.

Within these galleries, the contributions of the Nordic pioneers to the settlement of the Pacific Northwest are also showcased. Treasured and useful items the immigrants brought with them, including colorful folk costumes, textiles, tools and well-crafted furniture are on display in the Folk Art Galleries.

Also on the second floor are various temporary exhibits. Currently on view is “Bad Art? 1,000 Birch Board Pictures from Sweden,” a visiting exhibition representing a form of folk art from unknown origins in Northern Europe.

Sold as tourist souvenirs for more than a century, these humble objects have spread around the world.

To create the plaques, a postcard was glued to a thin piece of a tree trunk, typically from a birch tree. The image was then hand painted to the edges of the slice of wood and sometimes included three-dimensional objects. The exhibit challenges notions of what makes fine art versus popular art, as well as what constitutes bad taste versus good taste.

Also on display is “The Impression of Amundsen: Roald Amundsen’s South Pole Expedition 1910-1912.” The explorer Roald Amundsen’s personal diary from his South Pole expedition provided inspiration for this new exhibition of paintings and graphic works from several prominent Norwegian artists.

Up on the third floor, the differences and the common bonds among the Scandinavian people are delineated. There is one gallery for each of the five Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Each hall of this permanent exhibit highlights the individual group’s special achievements in our region. In addition to its exhibits, the museum also offers an array of programs including craft, language and cooking classes, guided tours, an active outreach program to schools, the popular “Mostly Nordic Chamber Music Series,” films, lectures and plays.

For more information about the Nordic Heritage Museum: (206) 789-5707 or

Plans for Eastside Rail Corridor gathering steam

  • Written by Sarah DeVleming, UW News Lab
The Eastside TRailway Alliance has big plans to breathe new life into the semi-deserted Eastside Rail Corridor, a 44-mile train corridor that runs from Renton in the south to Snohomish in the north.

Currently, the corridor is used to transport freight only a couple times a week, according to Bruce Agnew, director of the Cascadia Center for New Development.

However, the rail corridor could become booming again if all goes according to plan for the Eastside TRailway Alliance. It is hoping to secure $6.2 million in public and private funds to rehabilitate the 15-mile stretch of tracks from Woodinville to Snohomish. This upgrade would mean expanded freight operations, as well as a proposal for an excursion train.

Eastside Community Rail, supported by the Eastside TRailway Alliance, would sponsor the excursion train.

Kathy Cox, excursion train managing director for Eastside Community Rail, said the train would be called the Bounty of Washington: Tasting Train.

“It will celebrate local food, wine and stories [of the region],” Cox said. “It will be a taste festival on a train.”

The Bounty of Washington would run along with Eastside Rail Corridor tracks through Snohomish and Woodinville.

Eastside Community Rail believes that an excursion train would bring people and business into the Woodinville area.

“There used to be a formal excursion train, The Spirit of Washington Dinner Train,” Cox said.

The Bounty of Washington would offer a similar experience, and the majority of local businesses are warming up to the idea, Cox said.

According to Cox, 92 percent of wineries in Washington that responded to a poll sponsored by Eastside Community Rail support the Bounty of Washington, thinking it would be a good business venture.

However, the city of Kirkland has a different idea regarding what to do with its 5.75-mile segment of the tracks: It wants to build an interim trail of gravel on the preexisting rail bed.

According to David Godfrey, transportation engineering manager for the city, Kirkland wants to make use of the tracks as soon as possible.

“We feel like [a gravel trail is] what best fits our vision for the corridor,” Godfrey said. “Nobody is coming forward for any kind of use of the rails. … Nobody said ‘here is an actual proposal we have.’”

The stretch of tracks in Kirkland currently attracts walkers and hikers. A gravel trail would enhance the walking space.

The city plans to build the trail in gravel rather than cement so it will not be permanent, in case the rail segment will need to be rebuilt in the future, Godfrey said.

Kirkland is moving along with the gravel trail plan quickly.

A bid opening has been scheduled to see if any contracting companies could take on the project.

“If they’re in an appropriate range, we can move forward,” Godfrey said.

The city believes that if a gravel trail were put in over the tracks, it would attract new businesses to the area.

If the trail grew in popularity, Kirkland believes businesses would want to set up shop nearby, therefore creating more jobs.

The Eastside TRailway Alliance, however, disagrees. Karen Guzak, mayor of Snohomish and co-chair of the Alliance, believes that updating the rail line — including the segment in Kirkland — would be more beneficial than a gravel interim trail.

“I think there will be some jobs [generated from the trail] but I don’t think there will be nearly the number of jobs if there was a rail line,” Guzak said.

She also sees other benefits to leaving Kirkland’s rail segment in place for the time being.

“We wish that they would leave the rail there so we could do a regional study,” Guzak said. “We also see long-term commuter potential.”

According to Agnew, director of the Cascadia Center, the rail could also be used to transport construction materials to explore “temporary repurposing” of the corridor.

“The rail corridor could be repurposed by bringing construction material in … and taking it back out in a closed loop recycle,” Agnew said. “That would reduce costs to taxpayers.”

In addition, transporting any material by rail is more environmentally friendly, according to Agnew.

Transporting construction material by double dump trucks requires a large quantity of diesel fuel and emits pollutants into the air.

“We can improve air quality and public health by using trains for these construction projects,” Agnew said.

The trail itself has been around for over 100 years.

Previously owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the rail corridor was purchased by the Port of Seattle in 2009 for $81 million.

The Kirkland segment, formally called the Cross Kirkland Corridor, was purchased from the Port of Seattle in 2011 for $5 million.

Regardless of what will ultimately happen to the Kirkland rail segment, the Eastside TRailway Alliance is hoping to get enough funds to rehabilitate the rail corridor from Woodinville to Snohomish by next year.

“I’m not very optimistic we will get all of [the money] by this year,” Guzak said.

Once the funds are in place and the rail corridor is updated, including rehabilitation of bridges that the rail line crosses, the focus will be shifting to the Bounty of Washington tasting train.

If Kirkland does not turn its rail segment into a gravel trail, Cox hopes that one day the Bounty of Washington will go through the city as well.

“We don’t want Kirkland to build over it,” Cox said. “We want to start the excursion service there, too.”

The next meeting of the Eastside TRailways Alliance is scheduled for Thursday, April 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. and will be hosted by the City of Snohomish at Angel Arms Works in Snohomish. Angel Arms Works is located at 230 Avenue B at Third Street in Snohomish. Please RSVP for the April meeting to Cascadia Center at (206) 292-0401 or by Fax: (206) 682-5320.

Mark March 30 on your calendar to celebrate King County’s long-sought-after acquisitions along nearly 20 miles of the Eastside Rail Corridor. These acquisitions are an important step in preserving the Corridor for multiple near- and long-term uses. The open house celebration event is scheduled alongside the corridor:
• When: Saturday, March 30, noon. – 2 p.m.
• noon -1 p.m. – officials’ comments
• 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. – social program
•Where: Seahawks Headquarters/Training Facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, 12 Seahawks Way, Renton
Open house activities will include short tours of a Corridor section using a hi-rail vehicle provided by Sound Transit. Snacks and refreshments will be provided. More information about the effort to preserve and develop the Corridor for multiple uses can be found at: Please contact Glynnis Vaughan at (206) 296-1980 with questions.