Lessons from youth activities are priceless

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Posted: Friday, May 22, 2020 6:15 am

I remember the play like an old ESPN Classic World Series replay.

The picture is a little hazy, some of the details are a little blurry, but it was a moment I can’t forget.

There was one out. Or maybe it was zero. Did we even keep track? But I know for sure there was a runner on first base.

Our team was winning. Or losing. None of my teammates could really tell, and we didn’t really care at the time.

I just remember being thrilled to play shortstop and one of the other team’s better hitters was up.

He hit a soft line drive above my head, but I jumped up, caught it and threw over to my first baseman, who managed to secure the ball and touch the base after the runner didn’t tag up.

It was a double play, and to my 7-year-old self, we had just won the national T-ball championship.

Looking back, it may still be the pinnacle of my athletic career.

More than 25 years later, I still get that feeling of awe and excitement – not as a player, but as a coach seeing our young people make a play at Olsen Softball Complex.

I’m currently coaching four different age groups in Hillsboro’s girls fast-pitch softball programs this summer, but over the years I’ve coached the town’s T-ball, Little League and Babe Ruth baseball teams.

This summer will mark my 17th year as a coach in Hillsboro.

I grew up in this town and was raised on those softball fields, and my passion is making sure kids have an even better experience than I had at their age.

Why? Because I remember how important it was to me at a young age to feel invested in.

But our ballparks could have fewer memories made on them next year.

The Hillsboro Rec District’s mill levy expired in 2018 after a 10-year run. It was not immediately renewed.

The city of Hillsboro has graciously helped pick up some of the costs for the district, which organizes T-ball, youth softball, baseball, golf lessons and adult programs and classes.

However, the current arrangement is not sustainable without support from residents for a new property tax mill levy – which is on the June ballot – to renew the rec district.

For the cost of a latte each month, a household can help ensure that our young people have access to local, organized summer activities at some of the nicest facilities in the area with knowledgeable, passionate coaches.

Without organizations like the local rec district, our local golf program could suffer without affordable access to golf lessons.

Our baseball and softball programs could likewise see diminished success without the coaching, equipment and games.

It’s not all about winning, though.

Over the years since the Hillsboro Rec District was established, our community has seen a significant increase in summer sports participation.

For example, in 2013, 140 kids participated in activities at Olsen Softball Complex.

As of 2015, that number climbed to 180. That doesn’t include all of the teenagers over the age of 12 who played baseball.

Now, the district supports around 230 kids.

This summer alone, we are anticipating as many as 60 girls coming to Hillsboro to practice softball.

That is 60 young ladies who will go on to serve our communities as educators, medical workers, accountants, social workers, business professionals, faith leaders and parents.

Without the lessons learned about teamwork and striving for success at a young age, or the fun way to encourage physical activity, are we doing all we can for our future leaders?

If you are a voter on the fence about this mill levy, wouldn’t you want to live in a community that embraces those values in our young people?

To the people who gave me the chance to play T-ball at the age of 7, I thank you. You provided lifelong lessons – and memories – to a second-grader you probably didn’t know at the time.

Some may not think the increased tax is worth it.

But to me, your investment was priceless.

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