Archive for Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Ezell gives explanation of youth sports changes

February 28, 2001

I think I must turn aside from my normal Ramblings and spend some time talking with you about the baseball program this summer. As with any change, the transition may be rough in spots, but I wanted to give you some background about the changes and what you might expect.

Last fall, after much discussion, misgivings and with some trepidation on our part, the recreation commission determined that they would agree to a request by the Baldwin Athletic Association (BAA) that the commission take over the summer ball program for Baldwin City. It was stated by members of that board that the program had gotten too big for them to do the way they wanted and they felt that the full time staff at the commission had a better chance of continuing the tradition in such a fashion as to provide the best program for the most number of kids. So the administration of the program came to 820 High.

In order to provide for as much continuity as possible, it was also decided that we would enlist the help of the existing league representatives to continue going to meetings and to report to the director and the commission. In effect, this basically kept the structure of the BAA intact, while moving the administrative functions to our office. We believe this will help make it easier for everyone. We hope so.

During the several months of discussion, it was also determined that there was a need for a competitive division within the program. This year that is being realized with the development of a 9-10 and 11-12 year old boys program, and the upgrading of older boys and girls teams to provide them with better preparation for higher competition in the high school arena and perhaps on the college level. We hope that this will also begin the process of encouraging our older kids to continue playing ball. I envision both competitive and recreational divisions for our older kids (13 and up) in a few years.

As a result of this upgrading, we also had to adjust our fees to cover the cost projected for each age division, while trying to keep our T-ball to 12-year-old recreational program as inexpensive as possible. We took the stand that each division should be charged just what it would cost to field that team, deducting costs for uniforms and some equipment, which our sponsors are underwriting with their donations. The fees represent the cost for umpires at games here in Baldwin City, some equipment, league and tournament fees and a small administrative cost for office needs. Additionally, because we were able to make agreements with the Lawrence leagues, we included the buy-out for fund-raising that would be required otherwise. In each case, the agreement allowed Baldwin players to buy-out their fundraising requirements at 50 percent or lower of what would actually be required otherwise. We think we are giving our advanced teams a bargain for their participation.

It should also be understood that the competitive and older divisions will be playing a lot more games than those in the recreation divisions, so the cost of umpires and tournament fees are more at these levels.

In order to help our sponsors, we will be doing our best to make sure their names are publicized by every means possible. We intend to have the results of their games in the papers each week, publicized on the Baker Cable information channel and, of course, listed on every schedule published. We also will be encouraging our coaches to report results of out-of-town games and to fill out game result sheets or e-mail results and highlights directly to the paper. I am excited about our sponsors, since we have several who either haven't sponsored a team before or are getting into the game again after a lapse of time.

Finally, some word about the selection of teams is necessary.

It is at this point that I personally have the most trouble. It is also the point of greatest dispute when approaching the process. My years of experience with these types of programs lets me know two major things: competition is good for kids and competition is bad for kids. The balance that I am forced to try to keep is how to accentuate the good part and decrease the bad part. In the final analysis, the program is about the kids. So we are committed to giving each of our teams an equal chance for success here in Baldwin City or away at some other venue. That makes it difficult.

There are some communities that will be allowing up to half of last year's team in any age division to stay together. Others will allow up to half of a team that moves up to remain together as well as the younger players in a division to stay together (with some limitations). This is really good for a successful team, but might limit the opportunities for those who do not have as successful a season or as talented a coach. Consequently, I personally feel it necessary to advise our league representatives and the commission to push to "parity" on our teams and not to allow a "baseball dynasty" be formed, especially within our recreation divisions.

I have several reasons for that.

The first is that I believe that the good coaches need to share their expertise with as many of our kids as possible. Without naming names, we all know that there are coaches that seem to be able to take any group of kids and make them successful. What frequently happens is that after a couple of years, these coaches are working with the most talented kids year after year. This is wonderful for that limited number of kids. They get the edge and come to expect to be successful. It makes for confidence in later life and is the much touted reason for competitive team sports. The flip side of that coin is that they also have less experience at overcoming obstacles and understanding that life doesn't always go the way we expect it to.

Additionally, no one likes to get clobbered game after game, until they begin to feel it useless to even try. One season probably won't do permanent harm, but after awhile failure leads to failure. We want to do our best to make sure that doesn't happen with our program, so we really want to expose as many kids to the best coaches as possible.

I also hope the coaches out there understand the absolutely indelible affect they have on kids. I hope they are undertaking this task with the desire to make as many "winners" as they can. I also hope they are not looking toward a trophy to measure their success, but are willing to wait a few years until that one "impossible" kid comes back to tell them what an impact they had on their life during those few weeks of ball season.

That is the goal that is on our minds with everything we do here. There really is no other reason for our work except the future of our participants, either young or old.

Monte - the Dancing Bear. Baldwin City Recreation Commission, 820 High Street; Phone, 594-3670; e-mail, baldrec@knetconnect.net.

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