Wildwood's mibstersThumbs upThe National Marbles Tournament will hold its 90th competition in Wildwood from June 17-20. And for the first time in more than a decade, local students will participate in the competition.

Since February, 21 students in the Wildwood School District's after-school program have been developing their skills under the guidance of high school physical-education teacher Betty Harshaw of Wildwood. She competed in the tournament representing Greater Philadelphia when she was 9. Her students are now competing to see which boy and girl will represent their school, and the city, at Ringer Stadium in June.

The tournament has been a summer event in Wildwood since 1960 and has just the kind of wholesome family image the shore town likes to project. But for some reason, local children have not been included in that enthusiasm. And that's a shame.

Granted, shooting marbles may seem a little old-fashioned, but look at the advantages. They don't require batteries. You can buy a starter pack for just a few dollars and play on just about any hard, flat surface. You don't need special shoes or equipment.

In an era when parents can spend hundreds of dollars for sports equipment, a $5 bag of marbles offers competitive equality.

For about a decade, the Cape May County Special Services School sponsored a team, but they stopped participating in 2001. In the summer of 2011, Wildwood tourism official John Lynch began working with the Glenwood Avenue School to revive marbles on the local level.

It may be just a kids' game, but shooting marbles requires patience, concentration and strategy. It's one more way to get kids up off the couch, and it offers a chance to use those opposable thumbs for something other than texting. In Wildwood, it also offers the opportunity to compete at a national level and possibly win a cash prize without even having to leave town. And you couldn't ask for a better practice site than Ringer Stadium.

It would be great to see more area schools and youth groups pick up on this idea. There was a time when marbles were very popular. In a 2011 story in The Press, former state Sen. James Cafiero, then 82, recalled winning the Wildwoods marbles tournament in 1941 when all of the Five Mile Beach schools had marbles players go on to a county competition. Why not have local competitions again?

No New Jersey mibster has ever been crowned king or queen of the marbles. Most winners have come from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee and West Virginia. A few have come all the way from Colorado. Some years, no one from New Jersey even competes. That's just not right. So we applaud Wildwood for taking up the challenge. We wish the players luck this year and, we hope, for many years to come.

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