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Plenty are working so kids can play

While waiting for my grandson Carter’s baseball team to get their photos taken on Saturday, I got to thinking about how much effort — not to mention expense — goes into providing organized sports opportunities for youngsters in our communities.

As we start another baseball season, while winding up a final session of indoor soccer — not to mention squeezing in flag football in the next few weeks — I thought it was a good time to recognize those people who make it all work.

And I’m not just talking about the people directly involved in a particular organization. Those leagues also must deal with uniform suppliers, photographers, facility owners, concessions providers, etc., all of whom contribute to making a kid’s baseball or soccer or basketball season a little more special.

Yes, those are businesses and they profit from their relationship with youth sports leagues, but the amount of work they put in at the beginning of a particular sports season seems overwhelming.

On the field, in this day and age, we seem to hear mostly about those youth coaches who attack umpires or fight with parents. Or the headlines are about the league officials who get caught embezzling money.

But for every one of those examples, there are tens of thousands of people across this country who work tirelessly — without pay — to make sure kids in their community have a chance to play a sport.

Some might argue that youth sports are too organized, that kids should be left to play on their own like they did back in the “good old days”. I would love to see that happen, but for a number of reasons, it doesn’t anymore. I’ve got no problem with adults doing what they can to help kids learn to play a sport.

And every community has its own heroes, some working in one particular sport, others pitching in where they can in more than one sport.

I’m not necessarily talking about coaches here. Sure, they’ve got plenty to do organizing practices, pitching batting practice, dealing with kids goofing off at practice or games, memorizing the rule book, communicating with parents about how their child is doing … the list goes on. And I know of what I speak, having spent a dozen or so years coaching my kids and their classmates before jumping back into it with Carter a few years ago.

The real heroes to whom I refer, though, aren’t all coaches. Many people become involved in non-coaching positions in the sports organizations to which their kids belong. People are needed to help raise funds, work on fields, fix fences, cut grass, work with officials from other communities, keep track of money — as with coaching, the list goes on.

Many became involved years ago and have stayed around, contributing in various roles over the years. (I confess, I did not stick around once my kids were no longer playing.)

All of these people working in leagues are doing so as volunteers and they deserve our gratitude. Instead, what they often end up getting are complaints and snide remarks and grumbling from parents.

That comes partly from how our society is these days when we are slow to offer praise and thanks, but quick to criticize and denigrate. But another reason it happens is that those of us who have kids playing in a sport don’t stop to think how much work went into providing that opportunity to our kids.

And it really means a lot to those volunteers when someone offers positive feedback.

So, when your child tells you how much fun he or she is having playing in a particular league, stop to think about all the people who put forth an effort for that to happen and maybe say something positive to one or two of them.

And if you happen to have a minor criticism of how things are being done, just keep it to yourself.

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