Divided we fall, united we can gather funding for youth sports

PLAYING AROUND

April 16, 2000|By Lowell E. Sunderland

Talk with enough people, and your files expand and your notebooks run over. Here's some spillage:

From Rich Grantham, president of the Elkridge Youth Organization, hoping the public shows up at 7: 30 p.m. Tuesday at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City for the annual County Council hearing on the county's proposed capital, or construction, budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1:

"Usually, it's only people who are against things that go. But we need people to stand up and support the good things that are going on for young people, especially, in this county and for what the rec and parks department -- which has people who really care about what they do -- could accomplish if it just had the funding it needs."

Grantham, incidentally, has a petition drive going, hoping for the repeal of a $6-a-game fee for youth sports on fields, such as those at Rockburn Branch park. The fee, which doesn't apply to school-owned fields, was instituted during former County Executive Charles I. Ecker's tight-fisted tenure.

The money amounts "to $8 or $9 per youngster in our group," Grantham said.

Adult teams must pay $22 a game. Rec and Parks people regard it as a "reservation fee" intended to make sure teams show up at the appointed time; no-shows were a problem before the fee was applied.

From Gary Arthur, county Recreation and Parks Department director, talking during a broader interview weeks ago about the need for more playing facilities and how schools are the county's budget priority:

"The youth groups in the county are so busy most of the time with their own affairs, they aren't able to talk all that much with one another. But with all the people they represent, if they ever banded together, they could be quite a force if they wanted to fight for fields."

From Edward "Ned" Sparks, coach and athletic director at Howard High from 1971 to 1981 and executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association since, writing in MPSSAA's spring newsletter:

"Remember when high school recruiting and scholarships were dirty words and spoken about in hushed tones? Not so today. In fact, recruiting and scholarships are openly talked about in the press. It has become accepted practice.

"Remember when `in your face' meant a cream pie from Milton Berle, Sid Caesar or the Stooges? No so today. Intimidation has become part of the game.

"Remember when transferring schools was scorned and seldom ever done? No so today. Students not satisfied with their playing time, who have conflicts with the coach, or are lured by the promises of greener pastures have no qualms about taking their game to another school.

"When I hear of such things, I am stunned by the reaction from the public. There is none! Clearly, a different attitude prevails. What had been an outrage is now accepted practice."

From John Dingle, player-development director for the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County, while talking about the increased necessity of teaching parents how to coach:

"There are a lot of parents who need to learn the characteristics of kids. With divorce rates so high these days, the coach as a role model is more important than ever, particularly with so many fathers not being around."

From Mike Swartz, Columbia Youth Baseball Association president, whose playing career ended with an injury in college but who obviously still loves the game:

"Baseball is a game of small explosions. It doesn't have a clock, which drives some people crazy. But they don't understand that the waiting -- well, that's really where the game is played. That's when players have to decide what's likely to happen next and what they have to do."

From a county rec department handout called "Children and Sports," discussing what is normal for children ages 4 to 6 and just starting out in sports:

"There will probably be a big difference in my attention span between 4 and 6. At 4, I may be unable to understand games or keep up physically with the 6-year-olds. At 6, I will be more likely to understand the game basics and control a ball with my hands or feet.

"I may be easily distracted by things around an athletic event, such as a neat frog, butterflies, airplanes, or whatever takes my attention."

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