Freedom area recreation officials complain that a lack of coaches, game officials and other volunteers may result in higher registration fees or elimination of some youth programs.
The following anecdotes illustrate their problems:
* Freedom Optimist soccer and St. Joseph basketball organizers almost canceled parts of their programs recently due to lack of coaches. Coaches materialized only when the Optimists returned registration fees and planned a lottery to determine which eighth- and ninth-gradeboys would play.
* Lack of volunteer basketball referees may require St. Joseph to pay for them next year -- and raise registration fees 50 to 75 percent.
* Sykesville youth baseball lost about $1,500last year when too few people volunteered to run the concession stand, which provides 30 percent of the budget.
That accounted for half of the $10 increase in registration fees this year, organizers said.
Sykesville baseball president Marty Lookingbill summed up the situation with words which could apply to the other programs.
"The largest problem is that the workload of fielding 61 teams is falling on 25 people," he said. "There aren't enough volunteers. This league is becoming more of a baby-sitting service to children."
St. Joseph's basketball president Ron Mihalko calls his program "adventures in baby-sitting".
Rec representatives agree the problem has worsened the last two or three years.
They cite parental complacency, more single-parent households and increased job demands, among other reasons, for diminishing volunteerism.
All say sports will be more costly and less available if more help isn't found soon.
Mihalko says his organization "is at a crossroads," while Lookingbill sounds even more ominous, saying Sykesville baseball could disband in a few yearsif things don't improve.
Coaches are always needed. However, the officials say parents can help in other ways without committing a lotof time.
All three programs have concession stands. Parents couldspend two hours a week helping there while their children play ball.
Or, they could help rake a ball diamond before a game or pick up trash afterward.
Lookingbill said his $60 baseball registration fee could decrease by half if enough volunteers would help with groundskeeping.
Mihalko says his basketball group desperately needs volunteers to keep youngsters from roaming school halls during basketball practices and games.
He said the group could be thrown out of at least one school if youngsters aren't better controlled, a developmentthat would result in a dramatic loss of gym time for all.
None ofthese things requires a knowledge of sports or much time -- but all are vitally needed.
Without this help, the overworked volunteers who carry the rec burden may throw in the towel, something insiders say is happening throughout Freedom area programs.
They need help and they need it now.
The Westminster Sweep kept its hold on first place in the Four Seasons Sports Complex's over-30 men's soccer league Saturday by beating the third-place Westminster Turtles, 10-7.