When I was growing up, we depended on Mrs. Weber to make sure the school sports program ran right. Without her, the program probably wouldn’t have run at all. From organizing and working the Boosters’ fundraising raffles to scheduling games and updating rosters, she was on it.
And there was Mr. Hudemann too, giving up nights and weekends to repair the fields and fences, volunteering to coach teams that lacked a parent willing to take the job. As kids, we pretty much took them for granted. As adults, we still tend to take these folks for granted.
Most schools probably have similar dedicated volunteers. Programs throughout the country depend on Mrs. Webers and Mr. Hudemanns to keep their youth programs functioning, people who dedicate their lives to the effort and, of course, are not compensated in any way. They do it because they feel organized sports are an important part of childhood.
Outside of the schools or organizations or small towns where they tirelessly work, these people remain unknown. Unfortunately, we hear instead about the coaches accused of sexual abuse and the ones who run off with the uniform and travel money. We hear about coaches who ignore signs of concussion and push the players back onto the field. We hear about the parents who behave badly on the sideline. If a youth sports video gets any attention on You Tube, you can bet it involves a post-game parental brawl.
But I’ll wager that these bad apples are far outnumbered by the ones whose names we don’t know but without whom their sports programs would stumble to a halt. A frustrating but apparently inevitable fact of life. Lately on my Google Alerts, however, I’ve enjoyed seeing stories about these good apples popping up. Just a few examples:
New Paltz is grateful for the time and energy that Willie Dixon has given to support the town’s youth sports programs. For 20 years he has been stepping up to coach various teams in football, basketball, volleyball, track, even drum line. He says he stresses the three Ds: discipline, determination and devotion. Given the amount of time he has volunteered to youth sports in the area, he clearly embodies those qualities himself.
A little to the north of Davis, in Tewksbury, MA, Ed Sullivan was a very familiar face in the town’s youth sports world. He was always there to give his time and support. Sadly, the link notes his passing at the age of 50. An area resident recalls, “Each Sunday morning I would go down to the field early to check the condition of it, and without fail there was Ed on his lawnmower cutting the grass…. None of what Ed did was asked of him.”
Across the country, in Canon City, Colorado, Pete Miller has been doing much the same thing, having spent 20 years coaching youth baseball, basketball and soccer. He started out, as many of us did, coaching his kids, in part because no one else stepped up to volunteer. But even after his kids outgrew youth sports, he kept volunteering to coach. When asked why he does it, he answers, “It’s more like, why wouldn’t I? If somebody asked and they need a hand or need some help, it’s the natural thing to do.”
No doubt there are hundreds – even thousands – more like Davis, Sullivan and Miller, people who give their time to youth sports and ask nothing in return. They give because they feel they’re helping kids become better people while providing kids the opportunity to have fun. I wish we heard more about these folks. They’re all over the country, making youth sports possible.