Growing pains

Published 6:18 pm Sunday, July 14, 2013

AHOSKIE – Growing pains….that was the generalized response heard here Tuesday at a meeting of the Ahoskie Town Council regarding concerns raised last month by a volunteer coach within the town’s youth baseball/softball leagues who portrayed the summer program as one lacking leadership, organization, communication and responsibility.

After listening to the grievances aired publically by Anna Parker at their June 11 meeting, Council members were promised an update by Town Manager Tony Hammond at their July meeting.

“I talked to 10 of the coaches to gain their input, I left messages for others who didn’t return my call,” Hammond said. “Everybody had some concerns, some of them felt it more along the lines of the league going through growing pains than anything else.”

Hammond advised Council members there were other concerns with the umpires, saying one had made inappropriate remarks to family members of one of the teams.

“They felt he should be not allowed to umpire any more games; we made the decision not to let him work the games of that specific age group,” Hammond said.

“There were some that felt the town should have one person responsible, supervising and overseeing, the baseball program and one for softball,” Hammond continued. “We only had one total this year; that’s something we can look at for next year.”

Hammond said some believed that Ahoskie Recreation Director Tina Pritchard should be present at the baseball/softball complex whenever there are games being played.

“Others said they know she can’t be there every night when she runs a department during the day,” Hammond stated.

Hammond said the majority of the concerns of the coaches he spoke with were linked to the beginning of the season.

“There was some concerns about umpires being late; issues about not having equipment available,” he noted. “After Tina went in and took over the program about three or four weeks into the season, most all these concerns were ironed out.”

Hammond said the question that Council needed to answer is, “Let this program continue to grow and develop or is there a need for specific changes?”

“Personally I think this program is developing and I feel it’s going to continue to develop,” Hammond said. “Sure, there will be issues we need to iron out every year until we get this new program running smoothly. You can’t expect a brand new program to run perfectly smooth.”

Councilwoman Linda Blackburn wanted to know why Parker was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, learning from Hammond that she wasn’t contacted. She also inquired about the total number of coaches involved in the program, which is 33.

“I ask that to find out what percentage of the coaches made remarks about their concerns,” Blackburn said.

“I was given 21 names,” Hammond responded.

Pritchard was asked to give her assessment of the recently completed baseball/softball season, one where the program switched from the Tar Heel League to Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken.

“The comments I heard from parents and others was this was the best season we ever had, with the exception of a couple of the softball teams,” she stated. “This is the first time we’ve had this many (seven) softball teams and I think they were experiencing some growing pains.”

She said the issue with the umpires was corrected early in the season, making the change from high school students calling games to hiring certified officials to work those contests.

“I’ll be honest with you, I hated going out there last year, every time I went I was bombarded with this and that,” Pritchard told the Council. “This year I loved it. You could tell a difference this year.”

“I think this is a case of growing pains, although I’m very concerned that Miss Parker was not invited here today because she had some concerns,” Blackburn remarked. “I would like to make a recommendation. I feel certain there is paperwork handed out to parents, players and coaches at the beginning of the season. I would ask that in bold print that paperwork needs to indicate that there are two people – our Recreation Director and our Town Manager – to be contacted if they have questions, concerns, or suggestions.”

“It’s a new program, one that took some time to start working well,” said Councilman Malcolm Copeland. “I agree, we need to let Tina and Tony handle it. There are proper channels people need to go through if they have concerns.”

“Sometimes you will have issues with any new program,” Councilman Winfred Hardy noted. “If you have people that will talk nice to others when expressing their concerns, that’s the main thing to making things work. I say let this program grow.”

“We think you (Pritchard) are doing a good job and the public needs to know not to get a negative attitude about our Parks and Recreation program,” stated Councilwoman Elaine Myers.

The Council took no further action on the matter.

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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