Recreation Dept. takes on office chores for 2 more groups

Howard At Play

Recreation and local sports in Howard County

August 10, 2005|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

THE ENTWINEMENT of Howard County's Department of Recreation and Parks with youth sports has advanced a couple of more notches, with the agency taking on administrative duties for two more groups that began independently.

The 1,800-player Howard County Lacrosse Program, which evolved out of Columbia Optimist underwriting in the new town's early days, is the latest group to work out a deal with the recreation department to handle registrations and other "front office" chores.

Like other deals in the past couple of years with the rec department, HCLP's is a partnership, not a takeover or merger, said Al Harden, whose job includes oversight of the agency's sports operations.

HCLP will continue to provide coaches, handle scheduling, arrange for fields and officials and generally set the tone of what it teaches boys and girls, he said. But the rec department will handle the complexities of dealing with the public for signing up players, processing fees and providing uniform standards and training for coaches on how to work with children.

The rec department's fall program catalog also indicates a new, similar partnership with the Columbia Youth Baseball Association, another youth group founded in Columbia's early days.

In a county where, historically, youth sports teams and programs have bubbled up from communities, the rec department's standard rhetoric has been that one of the reasons it exists is to facilitate all things recreational in whatever way possible.

The agency has been instrumental in establishing - and then turning over to community volunteers - new baseball, softball and football programs, especially, as Western Howard County's population has increased over the past decade.

Within the past three years, the agency has bailed out a couple of struggling youth football programs, helped establish two others and set up a regional league in which all compete.

And when baseball and softball for middle schoolers, especially, began losing players several years ago in numbers sufficient to threaten "in-house" or home-community competition, the agency helped club leaders form and administer countywide leagues in each sport that have stabilized play.

The department's computers and ability to routinely process sizable numbers of registrations takes a huge, nettlesome burden off youth groups that, with only a couple of exceptions in this county, are run by a constantly shifting array of volunteers. And, to varying degrees, the clubs use the department's staff of recreation professionals as resources.

HCYP changes

The four-sport, Ellicott City-based Howard County Youth Program is coping with two unexpected administrative losses in about six weeks.

First was the death of Howard Carolan Jr., who had served the organization for more than 15 years as a baseball coach, commissioner and, for three years, as president. Carolan died July 26 after a series of strokes just two weeks after retiring from his day job, said HCYP President John Hein.

Carolan was one of the first youth sports leaders we met when this column began about 5 1/2 years ago. He had just become president of what HCYP calls its "Inc. board," meaning leader of the full club, not just one of its sports.

He steadfastly refused to let us do a profile about him, but he was one of the most philosophical people we've met in youth sports. He had an unusual grasp of the subtle roles that athletics - and adult leaders - can play in the lives of kids.

His organizational skills were evident as he coped with HCYP's factions and persuaded club leaders to think more in long-range terms, rather than just about whatever sports season was in play. One manifestation of that type of thinking was the start of escrowing money from fees so HCYP can eventually build some of its own facilities.

Carolan leaves a wife and a son and daughter. A scholarship fund has been established in his memory. Donations can be directed to the Howard T. Carolan Jr. Howard County Youth Program Memorial Scholarship, c/o 10210 Castlehill Court, Ellicott City 21042.

HCYP's second loss was the departure of its first paid executive director, Mike Burroughs, who moved to a new home off the fourth tee of a Hilton Head, S.C., golf course. Burroughs started with the group as a baseball coach, then served as a commissioner, member of the board of directors, and for the past two years, as executive director, working out of his home.

Sign it

We don't ordinarily write about high school sports in this column, given the presence of the subject in the paper's Sports section. But this is a plug for the petition effort being conducted to have swimming added as a varsity sport in county high schools. A group of parents led by Andy Lazris is scheduled to present its case and petitions to the school board Aug. 25.

You can get more information by e-mail from

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail tolowell.sunder about anything to do with amateur sports in Howard County.

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