Afew blocks off the hustle and bustle of Main Street on Saturday mornings, there is a pair of ball fields that go unnoticed by tourists, but are a vibrant part of our community.
In spring and summer, games stretch throughout the day. As games expire one after the other, a wave of parents and grandparents leave the Old Fair Park fields as the next wave circles the parking lots waiting to snag a spot from a parent who is leaving and not simply shifting from one field to the next as many do.
Half the kids will leave the fields that day disappointed in a loss. But like those kids, we supporters of the sports park bond have learned from our loss and improved our game with the goal of making a win the next time more likely.
I’m not on a league or association board. I’m not a coach, and I’m not even very good at remembering to bring aftergame snacks, but I can be a voice for teams that desperately need more fields, more courts and more community support.
If you support the bond for the new sports park proposal, the following likely reveal a need of which you are aware.
If you don’t support the bond, these facts offer an opportunity to reassess, or even inconvenient truths.
If you are undecided, I invite you to look at the facts and consider the effect of your vote. I encourage you to not be a believer in inapplicable blanket labels, such as “underexercised youth.”
If you think you don’t have a dog in this fight because your taxes won’t change or you don’t have children who participate in sports, I hope to convince you otherwise.
This spring, our local AYSO has approximately 500 children registered for recreational soccer and 70 registered in the United soccer league. In addition, there are approximately 75 adults who play in various leagues.
This number is only growing as the popularity of this sport continues to increase. Our city has only one permanent lit soccer field at Old Fair Park. One.
The city has leased approximately 10 acres of dirt to a very dedicated soccer association. The soccer association maintains (at its own expense) and plays on fields which are not regulation, have not been crowned, do not have proper drainage, are covered in weeds, and do not have irrigation, but they do have goals and mobile lights which were purchased by the association.
Our baseball and softball fields are utilized by 263 registered Little League players who form 25 teams, 192 adults playing in our community co-ed league forming 12 teams, 100 boys and girls playing in the United league forming eight teams, at least 30 boys and girls playing on local junior high teams who rent the fields, and 164 T-ball players registered as of last week.
Baseball and softball facilities available for public use include three lit baseball fields at Oakcrest Park, two lit softball fields at Old Fair Park, and at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park there is one lit baseball field, one lit softball field with temporary fencing and one T-ball field with no lights and no outfield fence.
There is a high level of cooperation among these various groups so that everyone can coordinate game schedules and practice schedules.
Our community frequently has 7-12-year-old boys playing baseball games that end at 10 p.m. and there are no other available times to play.
While there are more baseball teams than softball teams, both 7-12-year-old boys and girls have practices starting as early as 4 p.m., which is difficult for working parents and coaches, and they end as late as 8:30 p.m. on school nights.
Tennis is a sport for every age as evidenced by the 221 children enrolled in local junior high and high school tennis programs, 53 children enrolled in junior team tennis, approximately 100 children receiving lessons from local tennis pros, and 125 adults participating in our local association, scheduled play and tournaments.
My own children accounted for a few of the over 200 children who participated in various tennis camps held here.
Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park has six courts which were built in the 1960s and are not USTA-compliant. While those courts are all lit and were resurfaced three years ago, one of the courts is cracked beyond repair.
FHS has eight courts, four of which are lighted. One can easily see the difficulty in scheduling courts for school program practice, match schedules, lessons and casual play on existing courts.
Like the baseball teams, the Challenger tennis tournament and the Dr Pepper tennis tournament are unable to accommodate the number of participants, and some matches must take place in other communities.
I could cite many studies on social benefits of sports participation, such as the one published in Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine which reported that out of 14,000 high school athletes, the ones who regularly played sports were less likely to use drugs.
A survey performed by the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse showed students who played sports were less likely to have smoked cigarettes or used drugs and were more likely to disapprove of others using them.
The Women’s Sports Foundation found that female high school athletes are 80% less likely to become pregnant than non-athletes.
We might live in a small town, but we are far from immune from these issues and an effort such as this one will result in more positive outcomes.
Voting “Yes” for this sports complex isn’t just providing safe and adequate facilities for the various groups of our community who are in need of them, it is also providing an opportunity for our youth to develop determination, work ethic, teamwork skills and a sense of community that will benefit them and our society both now and in the future.
The passage of the proposed bond will help build a facility that has been a collaborative effort among the city, county, various sports organizations and community members. Many supporters are ready and willing to roll up their sleeves to assist in obtaining those items cut from the original proposal but would enhance this sports park. Playground equipment, hopefully including special needs, is just one example.
Every vote matters, and it is my belief that the more fully informed voters we have, the more likely we are to have the bond pass. Thanks be to God that we live in a country and a community where this facility and this discussion are both possible. VOTE YES!
Gayle Schoessow is a wife,
mother of four children, local attorney at the Law Offices of Bryla &
Schoessow, president of the St.
Mary’s School Council, a trustee of the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country, and serves on
the Advisory Board of the MOM