Youth sports leaders to convene April 16

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

April 06, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

NO MATTER what sport they prefer, what season, or what size their club, leaders in every single Howard County youth sports group express admiration at one point or another for the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County.

On April 16, that club will offer a unique opportunity for every one of those leaders - certainly an opportunity that is unique in recent years.

They're being invited to share, with the SAC/HC top leaders, thoughts about any topic related to youth sports that might be of mutual interest. The sport doesn't matter.

Issues would span fields, or the lack of them, and their condition, the county's ability to provide more in the future, insurance, educating coaches, recruiting volunteers, raising and managing money, training referees and maybe, oh, a couple of dozen more.

The man doing the inviting is David Procida, who became president of SAC/HC just over a year ago and, among other things, has become the leader of getting the club's long-dreamed-of Covenant Park, a 10-field complex built specifically for soccer, under construction.

"We want to do two things: share our experiences and learn from others in the county who are, essentially, in the same business we're in, which is working with kids through sports," Procida said.

"We're not in competition with one another as youth organizations, although on the field our coaches and players are competing. But every time I talk with other soccer clubs, I learn something - and I'm sure that can be true in talking with other groups here."

This is one great idea, an opinion that should be no secret to readers of this column for the past three years.

A year ago, someone was going to try the same thing, except it never happened. Maybe SAC/HC can bring it off.

With nearly 6,000 players competing in the spring, winter and fall, the soccer club dwarfs every other county youth group in size. And that means an ability to raise money, involve volunteers and tap a sometimes amazing reservoir of individual talent and skill.

Mind you, the soccer club isn't perfect, and frankly, no one at its top would suggest that. Detractors would be quick to point to controversies dating back years over who gets and who doesn't get treasured coaching jobs, how travel players are chosen, use of fields and a lot of other things.

But what has galvanized the admiration, of course, is SAC/HC's dogged pursuit of banking money over a decade to, some day, build its own field complex, a day now nearing for acreage the club has bought off Centennial Lane, near Centennial Park.

Here's betting that a few other leaders will see this venture as threatening - you know, the biggest club trying to expand its reach in some abstract way.

But Procida said SAC/HC is quite willing to share its experiences and knowledge, some of it gained in the proverbial school of hard knocks that all volunteer-based clubs go through.

"We're looking for a sense of how we all can pool some resources and make things better for children in sports here," he said.

If you've not been contacted but would like to participate, contact Procida by e-mail. Address it to davidprocida@erols. com.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or address e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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