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Dixie Youth softball opens registration

The Demopolis Dixie Youth softball program and new president Randall Smith are looking to build on the success of a 2008 season that saw more than 200 girls participate in the league.

“Hopefully we will have an equal, if not better, turnout than last year,” 2008 league president Chris Petrey said.

While the league, which has opened registration for the 2009 season, has a new president, Smith believes that it is consistency which helps make the organization an annual success.

“We want to keep up a lot of the same mentality, focus on the girls, focus on a program that’s building,” Smith said. “One way that we are following up and we know that we are going in the right direction is that I am very blessed in having two former presidents on the board.” Petrey and former president Rusty Byars remain on the league’s board, which is made up entirely of active coaches.

That fact helps the board members keep in touch with the changing needs of the girls in the league, who Smith said are more than just players to the coaches.

“I’ve been at it for six years,” Smith said of his experiences with Dixie Youth.” And there’s a part of us that feels like we helped raise the kids.”

According to Smith, that investment from the league’s coaches coupled with the relationships Dixie Youth p

layers tend to form with their teammates make the league about much more than the game of softball.

“It’s just amazing. The family atmosphere that’s there is tremendous,” Smith said. “We care about those kids more than just the game itself. We try to have ears that listen and hearts that are prepared to help.”

The new Dixie Youth president has watched his 11-year-old daughter, Rachel, form numerous friendships through the league.

“Some of her very best friends have been teammates,” Smith said. “To see the kids grow as people and in compassion and concern for others is greater than the game.”

In addition to maintaining the formula that it has found successful in year’s past, the Dixie Youth program will also look to capitalize on other features that have helped it in previous years. Smith said the league will again attempt to bring out the Demopolis High softball team to host a skills clinic for the Dixie Youth players.

“We’re going to try to have the DHS girls come back out this year,” Smith said of a 2008 DHS softball fundraiser that proved to be mutually beneficial. “It’s great for us as a league to get that kind of leadership. We make nothing off that. So it’s an investment (in the Dixie Youth players).”

The league also faces new challenges this year as it will host the district tournament for the first t

ime in nearly 10 years.

“We need to pull together as a league to be able to represent the community in this tournament,” Smith said. “There’s going to be a large number of visitors from each city coming. We have to be prepared of course on food and parking.”

Part of the organization’s preparation for the district tournament is readying its eventual all-stars to represent the community.

“Definitely to increase the number of girls we have,” Smith said of the league’s 2009 girls. “To strengthen the talent pool we have through coaching.”

Smith also said the board extends its gratitude to the city of Demopolis as well as each of its sponsors for their contributions to the league.

League registration forms are available at Omni Sports and Hibbett Sports through March 2. Registration fee for girls ages 4 and 5 is $45. Cost for girls from 6 through 12 years old is $50. Families registering more than one girls are charged only $45 for each child after the first.

Tryouts and drafts will take place the first week of March.

“If the kids can tell you at the end of the season that they want to play softball next year and can’t wait for it to come around, it’s been a successful year,” Smith said.