Time expires on beloved rec program

Press file photo

The Biddy Sports program appears to be on the way out of Brentwood after the city declined to renew the independent agreement with the organization.

The long-standing Biddy Sports program may have played its final game.

City leaders informed the organization’s founder and director Julie Mason that her independent contract will not be renewed for a 23rd year.

The preschool-age recreational basketball, soccer, flag tag and T-ball institution has served over 10,000 children since its 1998 Brentwood launch.

Mason intends to continue offering T-ball and soccer options in Oakley once COVID-19 regulations loosen.

“This is just a small, homegrown program that has touched a lot of people’s lives,” Mason said. “I would like to thank those people and tell them that we did not choose to disappear (from Brentwood), and we don’t have any choice about it. We will still be playing in Oakley when we are able to play.”

Brentwood Recreation Manager Kris Farro confirmed that Biddy Sports was not offered a new agreement for fiscal year 2020-2021, and the city plans to reevaluate its future recreational offerings.

“We have not been offering sports classes since the county issued the first health order in March,” she said. “There is no reason to have an agreement if we aren’t offering classes. Moving forward, once restrictions are lifted, the city may bring these types of classes in-house. That is, they would be designed and implemented by city staff. This allows the city to control costs and have the ability to work more directly with the public.”

Past Biddy participants, coaches and interns said the recreational fixture blazed a trail into many Brentwood hearts through the simple joy of play, crafted in a noncompetitive and supportive shell that promoted participation, respect, encouragement and fun.

The hour-long weekly events in six- to eight-week sessions were very popular, as youngsters scooped up basic social, team and sports skills, with their parents serving as referees and drill partners — lining the playing surfaces to foster organized and supportive play and instruction.

“In this day and age, there aren’t a lot of youth sports,” said former volunteer coach Susan Borer, who participated in 10 seasons of baseball and soccer with her children. “It gets competitive very quickly, and this is a place where kids get to play and have fun with the play of it. It’s not competitive; the parents are heavily involved. And that is the only way the program works: if the parents are part of every practice, part of every game.”

Past participant Brittni Tiscareno, who later returned to the program as an intern and staff member, expressed similar sentiments.

“All around, I think the program was beneficial to the community, because we were inclusive of all children, all families,” Tiscareno said. “It was just a good time.”

Mason, who also ran the program in Pittsburg, Bay Point and Discovery Bay, said Biddy Sports was launched in Pittsburg in 1993 as a way to use sports to promote simple play over competition.

Over the years, she hopes the program has created a fulfilling experience for children, while further instilling values in families at large.

“It’s not a competitive thing — it’s an introduction,” she said of her program. “All players get to play. You cheer for everyone, and everybody helps point the kids in the right direction.”

The end-of-season surveys show a 96% positive program rating, proving the program had been a hit.

But even more personally meaningful for Mason are the chance encounters with former participants — some now adults — who reminisce about their participation.

“We have had many people who have had every single one of their children in the program,” Mason said. “It’s definitely been an institution.”

Mason intends to continue offering T-ball and soccer programs in Oakley, although the timing and format are unclear, given current conditions.

“Hopefully, the program will be able to rebound after we figure out the impacts of COVID,” she said. “But in the meantime, I just want to thank everyone in Brentwood.”

For more information on Biddy Sports, biddysports.com.