Tony Daniello doesn’t mind spending his Saturdays and Sundays watching teams of Wizards and Nuggets drive to the basket. What he really is looking forward to, though, is watching his son, Bryan, knock one out of the park for UConn.
“My son had a dream since he was 8 years old to play college baseball,” said Daniello, standing in the cold outside Brookside Elementary in Norwalk. The Biddy Basketball league had just finished seven back-to-back games, several of which he served in as referee.
“There is nothing wrong with dreaming. You just have to work at it,” he added.
Working at it is a theme for Daniello. He has been active in youth sports since his daughter, Heather, was 6. She’s now 28, and he has been the Parks and Recreation basketball and baseball supervisor for 10 years. A common thread across all sports is a need for the kids to put in practice time to improve, he said.
In his youth, Daniello remembers he would see something on television and then go outside and try it. That was how he learned to play sports. Today, kids can go to camps and clinics, something that just didn’t exist when he was young.
Different types of teams now attract different types of players, too, he said. His Biddy Basketball league is facing decreased participation, he says, partially due to competition from travel team leagues in the same area.
When asked whether he ever had to call out “Car!” to clear the street during a youthful game, he smiled and said yes. That was how they played and practiced back in his day.
Regardless of how the times have changed, his advice remains firm to the young athletes and to his son: practice, practice, practice. “The main thing kids need to take away from all of this is they have to put the work in and practice. The skills are not going to just magically come to you,” said Daniello.
Even though his children have outgrown the local youth sports, Daniello has no plans to stop working with the leagues. But he may have to slow down a bit because he plans to make as many of Bryan’s games as possible.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing him play,” Daniello said before rubbing his hands together and heading for his car. His UConn sweatshirt could only do so much to ward off the chilly wind.