Elkridge youth group finds new leadership to fill emergency void


Howard At Play

March 17, 2002|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

FINDING NEW leadership is one of the enduring challenges for any youth program, sports included.

Many people will help at least to the level at which their children participate. But when the need is organizational, especially if no line of succession is in place, things can get dicey.

Which brings up the Elkridge Youth Organization, a venerable county youth group that, thanks to a renewing dose of what appears be that famed "Show-me" attitude from a Missouri native, seems to be regaining its bearings after some scarily shaky months.

The group hasn't had a president - in title, anyway - since last fall. Until very recently, it had nowhere near the number of leaders needed for spring sports, either. There had been early warning signs of difficulty, however.

Elkridge native Dave Grabowski was named last fall to the county's Recreation and Parks Advisory Board, then stepped down from his second term as EYO president. But he had taken that term, he said back then, mainly because no one else was willing to do it.

EYO's Web site hadn't been updated for about a year despite growing population and, countywide, more use of the Internet by most youth groups. When an update finally appeared recently, it included a plea for volunteers to run for - count 'em - president, vice president, secretary, registrar, baseball age-group commissioners, umpiring coordinators and newsletter writer.

"Please encourage folks to get involved," the unsigned notice read. "We still have many areas that need volunteers in the baseball/softball program."

The contact was Becky Fioretti, EYO's treasurer, a job she said she got by volunteering. So we asked her, "What's up?"

"It's a time of transition for us, I guess," said Fioretti, a basketball player growing up in Missouri who has become EYO's de facto leader - possibly the first woman to lead such a county organization - because she was unwilling to let the group fall apart.

"The old guard has moved on, and younger people were a bit slow to step up. It hasn't been this sparse in the time I've been involved."

In short, she's one unsung volunteer who deserves to start hearing some praises sung by residents of a young, growing part of this county that should be generating new leaders - but apparently isn't.

In the context of EYO, which has existed at least 25 years, Fioretti, 42, calls herself a newcomer, having moved here from New Jersey because of work. She and her family have lived in the Rockburn Commons subdivision nine years, but her first contact with EYO wasn't until about three years ago, she said, when the older of her two daughters began tee ball.

EYO is one of the county's three "umbrella" sports groups, meaning those with multisport programs; the others serve greater Ellicott City and Savage. In EYO's case, the menu includes soccer and basketball for boys and girls, baseball and softball, although it once had football, as well.

This spring, Fioretti said, EYO will have about 1,100 baseball and softball players (mostly baseball) and another 220 playing soccer.

Fioretti is unsure when another board meeting is likely to happen. Mainly, she explained, because a handful of volunteers haven't had time for formalities while scrambling to organize spring sports and not disappoint so many kids.

"I don't know what would have happened to EYO if it hadn't been for Becky," said Tom Cain, father of three young sons and the new baseball commissioner after two years of coaching in travel ball. "There were obvious problems."

But Fioretti credits, especially, Cain and his wife, Joan, baseball equipment manager, and soccer commissioner Ken Jester for helping keep things afloat.

Uniforms should arrive in time, and with opening day April 6 at Rockburn Branch Park, fields have been either booked or requested, and so, no, EYO will not collapse this spring.

A wrestling first

River Hill High School will play host to a new event for both Howard County and Maryland on Saturday - the first Maryland State Girls' and Women's Wrestling Championships, starting about noon and including divisions for competitors of high school, middle school and elementary school ages. As many as 60 girls from across the state and a few from elsewhere are likely to participate, said David Case, who heads the Maryland State Wrestling Association's new girls program.

"Lots of states have very well-developed girls programs, and we want to get that going in Maryland," said Case, a former Amherst College wrestler who lives in Bethesda and has one daughter and two sons in the sport. "Lots of high schools have one or two girls wrestling, and there are many more in the junior programs. This is their chance to step up."

And finally: We botched the nickname of the Howard County Y's rapidly improving swim team last week. The kids are Manta Rays.

Call the writer at 410-964-2942, or send e-mail to lowell.sunder land@baltsun.com.

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