Ronald Walsh PHS BBall Scholarship
He is Pelham High’s oldest basketball fan.
He knows all the players nicknames, their strengths, their weaknesses. And not surprisingly, all the players and the fans know who Ronald Walsh is.
“He has been coming to the Pelham High games longer than anyone I know,” says Basketball Coach Matt Regan.
A man who considers “Hoosiers” the best movie ever made, Walsh learned to play basketball on the hardscrabble courts of Brooklyn, N.Y. and later as a Navy sailor. The father of six girls, he began cheering for the Pythons in 1974, the year Pelham High first opened.
He rooted for his three of his daughters when they played hoops for Pelham in the late 1970s and 1980s, and in between he cheered the boy's team on.
“I just love watching high school basketball,” Walsh says. “There’s no better entertainment for two bucks, and I enjoy the camaraderie with the players and their parents.”
This year Walsh was especially proud of Pelham High. Their remarkable season with 22 wins and 0 losses wasn’t due to a couple of super stars; every player contributed, every player counted. The team epitomized Walsh’s philosophy: There is no “I” in team.
In March, as his beloved Pythons fought for the state championship, Walsh waged his own battle. A severe spine injury rendered him nearly cripple. Still, it didn’t stop him from rooting for his home town team.
“He was so happy when I called to tell him we’d won,” said Eric Frank, whose son, Kyle, plays point guard for PHS. “He told me this was the probably the most complete Pelham team that he had seen in all his years. It was a total team effort.”
Weeks later, when the Pythons learned that Walsh had undergone emergency spine surgery, they rallied for their longtime fan. “Pelham High’s basketball program is like one big family,” Frank said. “And Mr. Walsh is part of that family.”
Players signed a card with their team picture and Coach Regan presented the gift to Walsh as he recovered in the hospital. Walsh, who is known for cheering loudly and is seldom lost for words, fell silent.
“I was so touched by what they did,” Walsh said.
Months later as Walsh’s family considered what to get him for his 80th birthday, they thought about his life-long love for basketball and his 30-year loyalty to his home town team.
They decided to create a Ronald Walsh Pelham High School Basketball Scholarship. The award will go to a graduating senior who plans to attend college, plays 110 ten percent and understands there is no “I” in team. The first scholarship will be given out during the 2016 graduation.
During his four years playing basketball at PHS, Keith never missed a practice. He never missed a game, and he realized that teamwork didn’t end when players stepped off the court. Team captain for the past two years, he organized dinners before every game. “If we were going to be a tight team, we had to be tight on and off the court,” he said.
Keith also believed that everyone on the team − not just the captains − had a voice.
A record-breaking shooter, Keith averaged 28.5 points during his senior year and was on the verge of scoring his 2,000th point of his high school career.
But he put that goal aside.
Instead, he encouraged his teammates to score and become confident shooters, so PHS had a chance to win back-to-back state championship games.
The number “2,000 didn’t matter to me. The magic number for me was two: Two championships as a Pelham Python. I would rather be remembered as part of that championship team than as someone who scored 2,000 points.”
Keith’s selflessness and leadership paid off. The Pythons won the 2016 state championship game.
And Keith’s 2,000 point record?
“I ended my Python career with 1,978 total points, 22 points shy of that magic number. Could I have gotten those 22 points?”
Anyone who watched Keith play on the court and score as many as 40 points a game knows the answer: Absolutely.
But Keith put his team first. And now two state championship banners − one for 2015 and 2016 − hang over the Pelham High basketball court.
Though there were several other deserving seniors who applied for the Ronald Walsh Basketball Scholarship, “Keith put a huge personal goal aside for the team,” said Ron Walsh. “He understood that it takes all five players on the court to win. He showed what leadership is all about.”
Good luck to Keith during his freshman year playing basketball for Endicott College.
*Next year, scholarships will be awarded to both a senior on the boy’s and girl’s basketball teams. (There were no seniors on the girl’s team this year.) To be eligible for the award, the graduating senior must be attending college.)
Pelham's biggest fan now giving back to his teams
The seat is second from the top on the aisle. There is no reserved marker on the Pelham High School bleacher, but everyone knows: You don't sit there.
"I remember when my son Ryan was a freshman I sat in that spot," said Pam Frank, whose two sons have played basketball for Pelham High. "Everyone said, 'You've got to move, that's Mr. Walsh's seat.'"
"Who is Mr. Walsh?" Frank asked.
She soon learned Ronald Walsh is Pelham High's oldest and most loyal fan. He knows all the basketball players, their nicknames, their strengths, their weaknesses. And not surprisingly, all the players and fans know who Walsh is. He talks to the players after the games, congratulating them, praising them on their progress.
When you ask Walsh how long he's been attending Pelham's games, he jokes: "For like 100 years."
While it may not be a century, Walsh began cheering for the Pythons in 1974, the year Pelham High first opened, and he has been showing up at the basketball court ever since.
The father of six girls, he watched nearly every game when three of his daughters played hoops for Pelham in the late 1970s and '80s, and in between he cheered the boys and girls teams on. "I just love watching high school basketball," Walsh says. "There's no better entertainment for two bucks and I enjoy the camaraderie with the players and their parents."
A man who considers the basketball film "Hoosiers" the best movie ever made, Walsh learned to love the game as a kid on the hardscrabble Brooklyn, N.Y., courts and in later years with his fellow Navy sailors. He went on to coach Pelham's hometown Catholic Youth boys team and his twin daughters' summer league.
Last March, as his beloved Pythons were fighting for the state championship, Walsh waged his own battle. A severe spine injury nearly crippled him.
Still, just before the state final began, Walsh called Eric Frank, whose son Kyle played point guard. Frank promised to call Walsh right after the final buzzer. But it took him some extra time due to the celebration. Pelham had won the state title.
"He was so happy when I called to tell him we'd won," Frank said. "He told me this was probably the most complete Pelham team that he had seen in all his years. It was a total team effort."
Weeks later, when Pelham High coach Matt Regan, his players and their parents learned that Walsh had undergone emergency seven-hour spine surgery, they rallied for their No. 1 fan. They signed a team picture and Regan presented it to Walsh as he recovered in a Nashua hospital.
Walsh, who is known for cheering loudly and is seldom at a loss for words, fell silent as he read the signatures and well wishes from the Pythons. "I was so touched by what they did," Walsh said.
Months later, as Walsh's family considered what to get him for his 80th birthday, they thought about his life-long love of basketball and his 30-year loyalty to his hometown team.
They came up with the idea of a scholarship in his name. In August the family created the Ronald Walsh Pelham High School Basketball Scholarship. Awards will go to a graduating senior on both the girls and boys team who is headed to college.
"This is one of the best gifts I've ever received," Walsh said. "The players, their families and fans have given me so much joy over the years. It's nice to be able to give back to them."
The first scholarship will be given out this year at the Pelham High graduation. Walsh hopes he can continue the scholarship for the next two years. "It'd be great to help these kids out with their college expenses," he said.
Contributions to the fund can be made at Santander Bank on Bridge Street (603-635-3372), or log on to "gofundme.com" and search "Ronald Walsh."
Ronald Walsh (in the blue cap and Pelham sweatshirt) cheers with his 'basketball family.'
He knew it would be tough playing teams in Nashua and communities bigger than Pelham, teams that actually had basketball courts to practice.
“We could only get a gym once a week to practice, so it was tough,” my dad recalled. “But I promised Father Quirk we’d win more than we lose, and we did.”
Despite the lack of gym time, my father taught the players what he could. He focused on the fundamentals of the game and shared his mantra: “There is no I in team.”
“It was great when you saw them progress and improve,” he said.
There was only one problem with the CYO league. They played on Sundays – even during a particularly important football game. “I missed two Super Bowls,” my dad lamented. “But I had a lot of fun coaching.”
A decade later, after Pelham High School opened, my dad coached the summer girls basketball league, a team that included my twin sisters, Janice and Joan, along with Elaine Bedard, Lisa Ryan and several others.
“I really enjoyed that summer. The girls worked hard and we had some talented players.”
My father also felt fortunate to spend time with his daughters on the court.
“I think it was the only time Janice and Joan listened to me,” he joked. “They knew if they didn’t, I’d pull them out of the game.”
At the age of 80, my dad no longer coaches basketball, but he still loves the game. He looks forward to watching his granddaughter, Danielle Upton, play in Nashua this fall, and he is eager to return to the snake pit at Pelham High, where he has cheered for basketball players since the school opened in 1974.
“There’s really no better entertainment during the winter,” he said. “And I love the camaraderie with the players and the fans.”
The Ronald Walsh Pelham High Basketball Scholarship was created to honor my dad’s loyalty to his hometown team. An award will be given out to a graduating senior who plays 110 percent, realizes there is no “I” in team, and is planning to attend college. A player on both the boys and girls team will receive a scholarship. There are two ways to donate on this gofundme site or checks can be mailed to the Santander Bank, 150 Bridge St., Pelham, NH 03076. (Please note that the check is for the Ronald Walsh Pelham High Basketball Scholarship.)
He had never heard of gofundme before. He didn’t realize how it could help raise money for his beloved home-town basketball teams.
But donations came quickly for the Ronald Walsh Pelham High Basketball Scholarship. Neighbors contributed. Former Pelham High basketball players and alumni donated. Parents and grandparents who sit with my dad in the Pelham High ‘snake pit’ penned kind words and gave. And of course, family contributed, too.
My father was overwhelmed when he saw that $1,625 had been raised in less than a month.
“I’m speechless,” he said. “Reading all these comments brought tears to my eyes. I’m really proud to live in Pelham. There are some great kids and great families in this town.”
Back in August, my family created the scholarship for my dad’s 80th birthday to honor his 30-year loyalty to his hometown basketball team.
We planned to award a college scholarship for at least a year to a graduating Pelham High basketball player on both the boys and girls team. But with the generous donations, we hope to continue the award for as long as we can. My father was ecstatic with the idea.
“Boy, if we could help some of these basketball players out with a scholarship for three or four years, that’d be great.”
All the contributions will be placed in the Pelham NH Santander Bank, where my family donated in lieu of giving my father birthday gifts. Funds can be sent directly to the Santander Bank, 150 Bridge St., Pelham, NH 03076. (Please note that the check is for the Ronald Walsh Pelham High Basketball Scholarship.)
Each day, my father returns to the gofundme site to see if there are new donations and to reread the comments, like the one from his grandson Patrick “I couldn’t ask for a better grandfather.” Or the note from former Pelham High players like Tim Wholey who wrote, “As part of the ‘original’ bball squad when PHS opened in 1974, I can proudly validate that Mr. Walsh was in the stands cheering us on in our home opener that year. It is incredible and heartwarming to hear you have been so dedicated and supportive through the years for the hometown team.”