From the Sidelines: Leagues are a great thing for children

Published 11:41 pm Friday, February 13, 2009

It’s one of the best times of the year for a town like Demopolis. The local youth baseball and softball leagues are registering and kids all over the area are gearing up for what promises to be another great season.

Last year, nearly 500 young people took part in the Demopolis recreational leagues.

However, this year, registration has started a little slow. As of Thursday, only 50 players had registered for Cal Ripken baseball. While registration often starts slowly, that is an alarmingly low number considering that the process closes next week.

The economy is tough right now. There is no question. And the concern among many is that current economic conditions will limit the amount of participation in the leagues.

That would be one of the worst things that could happen to Demopolis sports and the young people who play them.

Cal Ripken and Dixie Youth allow children to remain active. They are taught to set, chase and achieve goals. They learn to function in a team environment. They learn more about character, sportsmanship, how to succeed and — more importantly — how to fail. And perhaps the best thing the leagues do for children is the simplest. It keeps them outside away from televisions, computers and gaming consoles.

Yes. Each of those things has its place and none of them are inherently evil. But in an era of our society in which childhood obesity is at an all-time high and youth activity is at all-time low, youth sports are the most affective means we have of ensuring our young people are exercising, learning and growing.

Sometimes, we get caught up so much in wins and losses that we lose sight of the most important aspects of the games themselves. In their purest form, team sports are about camaraderie, character, self-improvement, achievement and the simple, unadulterated love of playing.

Without question the economy is tight. Times aren’t as easy as they have been in other years. But if your child wants to play baseball or softball and there is any way possible to make that happen, please find a way to do it. Not everyone will play professional, college, high school or even middle school ball. But every kid who has that dream or just wants to play deserves a shot. Your child may never play again beyond this one season. But if you can do it, let them make some memories and learn some lessons that will stay with them for years to come. And in the process, you just might make a few memories of your own.

League registration for Cal Ripken closes Friday, Feb. 20 while Dixie Youth remains open until Monday, March 2. Registration forms for both are available at Omni Sports and Hibbett Sports.