THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Rodeo, checkers... Give the little sports a try

Why people might flock to Bedford
Flickr/Darren Hester

With baseball season entering its last trimester and football season right around the corner, it might be time to add a little spice to your life. Before Donovan McNabb's weekly performance has a chance to consume your every waking moment, get out there and do something a little different. It will do you good.

What could be more fun than watching a bunch of kids barrel race and wrestle steers to the ground? If you can stomach Pee Wee Bull Riding (fifth graders and younger), the Virginia High School and Junior Rodeo Associations are sure to entertain. 

The VHSRA and VJRA combine as a non-profit organization designed to provide a safe environment for young cowgirls and cowboys to develop their rodeo skills. They hold clinics and workshops but also put on a heck of a good show. This fall you can catch them at Bunn's Mad Cow Arena in Dublin on September 18-19 or at the State Fair of Virginia in Richmond on October 2 and 3 (at 6pm and 2pm respectively). You might just see VHSRA Queen Bayley Johnson or Martha Angelone, who at a recent competition in Gillette, Wyoming, tied a goat in 9.108 seconds.

Speaking of fast, I'll be the first to admit I'm not. Fast, that is. 

Normally the only way I'd get near a 10-miler or a 10K would be if my husband (who's a natural runner) or my son (who's not even walking yet) decided to prove I'm the only slowpoke in the family. But when the Virginia 10 Miler gets started in late September, I'll be there. I'll be there because Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf will be there too.

The two venerable and legendary tennis giants are the guests of honor at the 37th annual Virginia 10-Miler, and Agassi will be giving a keynote address at E.C. Glass Civic Auditorium in Lynchburg at 6:30 on September 24. The pair will also be kicking off the Children's Run a little earlier (5:45 near Amazement Square) and having a meet-and-greet before the race. It's not every day that winners of 30-combined Grand Slam titles show up just down the road. Suffice to say it's a rare opportunity and one not to be missed, even though there's running involved. 

Okay, you can run if you want to.

Less physically taxing but no less competitive is the 93rd Virginia Open Checkers Tournament, taking place September 17 and 18 in Bedford. I'm fortunate enough to be acquainted with checkers Master Ryan Pronk (yes, there are Masters and even Grandmasters in checkers) who assures me there's nothing funny about the tournament. 

Being great at checkers requires dedication and at least five hours of daily study and practice. If you're an avid or just casual checkers player, Pronk implores you to remember that controlling the center of the board is imperative: never make your first move to the side.

In just another week or so, we'll be entering a month with the letter "r", which in Virginia means one thing and one thing only: it's oyster time. The 53rd Urbanna Oyster Festival may be a little ways off, but I'm telling you about it early so you can get your practice in. You're going to need it if you're going to beat Deborah Pratt for the title of Virginia State Oyster Shucking Champion. 

Not only is Pratt a professional shucker and a repeat state champion (many times), but in 2008 her time of three minutes 23 seconds to shuck two dozen oysters was two minutes faster than the men's professional division winner. She's also a repeat National Champion, turning in a time of 3:26 in 2006 and an astounding 2:47 in 2005. Get your gloves ready– the festival runs November 5-6.

So when you get a little tired of watching the Yankees mark time until division playoffs or seeing Eli Manning try and try and try some more, don't despair. There are plenty of things to do, most of which thankfully don't involve watching Tim Tebow put his cap on juuuuust so.


Juanita Giles lives in Keysville.