Coach cites concerns

Published 7:20 pm Monday, June 17, 2013

AHOSKIE – Youth summer league baseball and softball is typically well received by those involved in the athletic competition.

However, one volunteer coach within the Ahoskie Red League isn’t happy, and she says others feel the same way.

At last week’s meeting, members of the Ahoskie Town Council took no action, but listened as Anna Parker voiced her grievances – to include a lack of Recreation Department leadership, a breakdown in communication, league instability (including the changing of rules in the midst of the season), budget issues, practice scheduling issues, and forcing young children to play in adverse weather conditions.

After making a formal request on May 29 to address the board, Parker was listed on the June 11 meeting’s agenda.

“There have some concerns told to me about the lack of leadership, organization, communication and responsibility,” Parker said. “A few of those things have stemmed from previous years and continue to be an issue today. I’m bringing the issues brought to me to this board.”

Parker said there was no official representation by a town recreation official at the youth games.

“There are a few people here and there, but when you try to find somebody in charge it’s hard to get a hold of them which in turn causes a game to be stopped or spend time getting questions answered before the start of a game,” she stressed.

“I know some of the parents have issues about this lack of communication with the people in charge. They’ve tried communicating by phone, by email and they get no response,” Parker added. “There’s nothing to let them know they’re being heard.”

Parker praised the town’s efforts to build the beautiful ballparks, saying the facility attracts out-of-towners to Ahoskie.

“But without stability and a lack of organization (at those fields), I fear that this park will go downhill,” she stated. “I’ve heard some parents say that their kids will not be back to play next year unless something changes. Coaches don’t want to come back because they feel that their time isn’t worth the headaches. (Team) sponsors do not feel that their name is being well represented in a good way.”

Parker also addressed the change this year to the Babe Ruth League.

“That is a structured organization; there is a set of rules in the books, but the rules are being changed in mid-season,” she said. “If you have a rule to begin with you need to stick with it throughout the season. If it needs to be changed, corrections need to be made for the next season. The kids and the coaches don’t know which rules to follow when they change almost every night.”

As is typical with any outdoor sporting venue, weather does impact the schedule.

“We’ve had a lot of rain this season, some of my team’s games got rained out and were not properly rescheduled,” Parker noted. “Due to the league’s rule, you have to play a certain number of games in order to qualify for all-stars (post-season tournaments). Now we’re trying to rush to get these games in and some of these little kids are being forced to play in the rain. They could be injured playing when it’s pouring down rain while most of the adults are under a shelter where it’s dry. That’s not fair to these kids.”

Parker said she solicited the opinion of others on how the league is operated this year. The response, she said, ranged from, “chaotic, ridiculous, it’s a joke, out of control, unorganized, and going downhill.”

“Again I stress that Ahoskie has a real nice facility and there are a lot of kids that want to continue playing, to learn the game, but unless something changes or there are solutions to these items I addressed then you’ll lose the kids and it’s their hard work and pride that makes it all worth the time and effort the volunteers put in. We want these kids to have fun; unfortunately it hasn’t been that way at all,” Parker concluded.

During the council comments portion of the agenda, held near the end of the meeting, Mayor Brien Lassiter promised Parker that she would receive a response to her concerns on behalf of the town. Councilwoman Linda Blackburn echoed that promise.

“I assure that you will receive feedback from the town,” Blackburn stated. “I also ask the town manager that this feedback come from this entire council and not just from one or two members of this council. I think we all have a genuine interest and have put a lot of time and effort in this park. There are some issues out there; we have some issues going on internally. I don’t know if anyone really knows who the (town) official is out there (ballfields). I want this to come to the entire council. No one runs the rec department but the rec director and the town manager.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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