Students participate in the UA Optimist Leagues.

By Josie Stewart, ‘21

In elementary and middle school gyms, high schoolers run across polished wood floors with friends in the crowd and sweatbands worn to every limb.

The Upper Arlington Optimist Club hosts a basketball league for Upper Arlington boys in fourth through 12th grade and girls in fourth through eighth grade each year for students. The club also offers training for students in kindergarten through third grade. Many high school students either participate on a team with their friends and peers or coach younger students.

Photo courtesy Alana DeVilbiss

Teams practice on their own about once a week, preparing for Saturdays when teams challenge one another in games with eight periods, rather than basketball’s usual four quarters.

Sophomore Peter Spofforth plays on a team with many of his friends. Their coach is also the coach for UA Crew.

“Opti-ball is really just a great way to spend time with your friends and play basketball,” Spofforth said.

Spofforth’s team consists of several other sophomores that play wearing tutus, sweatbands, high socks and the costume of popular anime character Naruto.

Freshman Catherine Dolbow participated in Opti-ball in past years but was not able to this year since there was no league for high school girls. The administrator for Optimist, Paul Boyer, said that there are not enough girls signed up to create teams.

Photo courtesy Alana DeVilbiss

“I like Optimist because it’s for people who like basketball but don’t want to take it so seriously,” Dolbow said. “My friends and I wanted to create a team because we thought it would be really fun, but they didn’t have a high school girls league and wouldn’t let us play with the guys.”

Sophomore Mac Scholl also plays on an Optimist team with his friends. Although his team’s costumes are not as extravagant, his friends still sport sweatbands, gold or black jerseys, and sometimes Crocs during the games.

“People play Opti-ball because it’s just a good time. You can be with your friends and it’s not anything too intense,” Scholl said.

Photo courtesy Alana DeVilbiss

Parents, friends and others come to watch the games which can get rowdy when points are scored in the last few seconds or games are lost by one point.

“Optimist was really fun in middle school,” Dolbow said. “I wish that I could’ve played it this year, but hopefully they figure something out by next year.”