Connie Bradford was hardly an athlete when she began her involvementwith the North Carroll Recreation Council.
But, new to the Hampstead area, she was lonely.
"When we first moved here, I had small children and I didn't really know anyone," says the mother of four. "I thought the best way to meet someone would be to get involved."
And even though her children were still too small to play sports, she began attending rec council meetings and helping in small ways, like volunteering for fund-raising booths.
Now, with her children involved in several sports, Connie is the softball coordinator for the council, a job she's done since 1985. She also serves as the council's secretary.
Her husband,Jeff, has been the basketball coordinator for six years and coaches the traveling team. His involvement, he says, is one of those deals that comes along with marriage.
"I guess my wife got me started," he recalls. "All of a sudden I was invited to a meeting one month and I became the basketball coordinator."
Unlike Connie, who describesherself as having been a typical cheerleader in high school and sayswith a laugh that "now it's like a bad word," Jeff had a sports background.
One of the proudest days of his life was when, in 1970, hewas picked by The Evening Sun as the Prep Athlete of the Year. He had played soccer, basketball and baseball at Dundalk High in BaltimoreCounty. A pitcher, he was drafted out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds.
But he had a serious arm injury involving torn tendons inhigh school, and he reluctantly decided to attend college.
"I always wanted to play professional baseball," he says wistfully. "I was still able to earn a full scholarship from Clemson (University in South Carolina) but the arm was never the same."
Now, the 39-year-oldplays slow-pitch softball, golfs and plays basketball in the county men's leagues. And Connie, also 39, has become an athlete.
"I playmore sports now," she says.
She plays tennis in the Carroll County Women's Tennis League where 13-year-old daughter Cori is her doubles partner.
Cori's not the only one with athletic genes. Bryan, 17,just graduated from North Carroll, where he played soccer, basketball and tennis. Eleven-year-old Jeffrey played in the Manchester LittleLeague and is playing a variety of positions for Manchester's travelteam. Jessica, 10, plays on North Carroll's co-ed basketball travel team.
Jeff, who works as a manager for Carolina Freight, says the drawback is the amount of time he has to put into the programs, whichinvolve 250 people.
During basketball season, he's working with the council seven days a week. Add to that the kids' games and practices, and it makes for a hectic schedule.
"Everything is hit or miss," he says, "We go where we have to go."
But he knows the long days are worth it.
"Even though I've loved sports all my life, it's not winning," he says. "I love seeing kids grow up -- just being a positive influence on every kid you see. I think that's the biggest thing."
Connie, who also squeezes in some work as a part-time editor for a small publishing company, also has found her work with the council fulfilling.
"I would rather be involved than stand on the sidelines and complain."
Last year the council returned the honor by nominating her to be their volunteer of the year.
And Connie did find the friends she was looking for way back in 1980 when the couple first settled in Carroll.
"It's been wonderful," she says. "Most of the people are the kind of people you want your kids to be associatedwith their kids."