It is a sport for all ages, one requiring only a steady hand and accurate eye for competition.
Marbles is new offering from Clarion University’s Health Science Education Center (HSEC) and attracted approximately 20 students ages four through high school to HSEC Marble Day 2008. Doug Watson, a Youth Prevention and Project X coordinator for HSEC and the 1999 National Marble Champion, led the introduction to the sport.
“Marbles is one sport you don’t see in this area where there are not a lot of things for kids to do,” said Watson, who has also competed internationally. “It is very popular in Pittsburgh and Reading and very different from anything else they have to do in Clarion.”
The sport’s popularity is so strong that Pennsylvania, with 62, has crowned more National Marble Champions than any other state. Joining Watson in presenting the program were 2008 Boys and Girls National Marble Champions Amber Ricci and John Leffakis, Alex Bauer, the 2007 Girls National Marble Champion, and Carly Miller, the 2004 Girls National Marble Champion. All are from Allegheny County.
All of the participants were instructed in and participated in games of Ringer, Tennessee Square, and Bridges.
“I want to start an interest group for playing marbles,” explained Watson. “I would like to make school visits in the fall and once there is a core group start a Saturday program in January 2009. Ideally, a Clarion County wide team would be established and players could qualify for the national championship in New Jersey, where a $2,000 scholarship is awarded.”
Watson, who got his start in marbles in his hometown of Greencastle when he was 10 years old, used his $2,000 scholarship to pay part of his Clarion University tuition. He earned his degree in liberal studies in December 2007 and was hired by the HSEC.
For HSEC, he coordinates, Project X, an animated program along the lines of the movie “The Matrix,” with elements of television’s “CSI” programs. During this school based assembly, the agent known as Noah Goodman, works for smoke free schools. The program is presented on a 15-foot screen using back projection to display the on-screen animation.
Watson views the marbles program as another means of meeting HSEC’s goals.
“I plan to spend half of the time on marbles and the other half on nutrition, exercise, and stress management,” he said. “It is a way of promoting physical and mental health.”
Anyone interested in participating in the marbles program should contact Watson at the HSEC, 330 W. Main St., Clarion, at (814)-227-1901.
Clarion University’s Health Science Education Center, one of only four in Pennsylvania, was established in 2002 to expand health education opportunities to a seven county area including Clarion, Venango, Armstrong, Butler, Elk, Forest, and Jefferson. The primary goal of this project, partially funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, is to provide health education programs, which meet National Health Education standards, for school-aged students living within a 40-mile radius of the center.