|Parent-run leagues vs. city rec programs – doesn’t have to be one or the other|
Here's the situation: In 2009, Pell City, Ala., decided to stop running in-house youth sports programs entirely. This commonly occurs throughout the country due to budget slashes and staffing cuts many parks and recreation departments are now facing. According to a recent NAYS survey, 88 percent of municipalities have independent youth sports leagues playing at their public facilities.
In this case, the city youth sports programs were the only ones available to the children of the community. Local parents stepped up to the plate and formed sports organizations to offer programs - football, softball, soccer and more.
Fast forward four years later and the same city council says, Never mind; we would like those programs back, please. (Not an actual quote, of course!) It seems to me that these parent-run leagues are getting the rug pulled out from under their feet! These are the same leagues that put so much time and dedication toward offering youth sports programs when opportunities were no longer available through the city recreation department.
The parks and recreation director rationalizes the city council’s decision with reasons such as a desire to "[maintain] control," "eliminate possible liability issues the city could face," and "[hoping] the city can make a profit."
Sure, these are valid points to take some action. But pulling a complete 180 by taking all programs back? I don't think that was necessarily the right move.
Issues like maintaining control and lessening liability can be addressed by having proper oversight of leagues. If the city is allowing use of their public facilities then certain requirements can be placed upon the leagues. Require leagues to prove they have insurance, train their coaches, administer background checks, help with some field maintenance, etc.
A league doesn't meet the requirements? Then, no facility permits for them!
If the city wants to provide programs to generate some revenue then perhaps they can offer something different and unique that the leagues aren’t already successfully operating – like kickball, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee or lacrosse. Maybe serve different age groups like a sports skills development program for younger kids.
What would you have done if you were a member of this City Council? How would you feel if you were a board member of one of the leagues?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
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