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Sports programs create opportunities to play, learn, and grow

August 9, 2018

A message from Park Board Commissioner Jessie Baines

As summer vacation winds down, back-to-school sales are heating up and Tacoma families are preparing for a new academic year.

Metro Parks Tacoma is also preparing for what’s ahead. Together with Tacoma Public Schools, YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, and Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound we’re preparing to launch the third year of our Elementary Sports Program.

With the help of dozens of volunteer coaches, including a special group of teenage coaches-in-training, we’re providing thousands of Tacoma youngsters with opportunities to play after-school sports at any of the city’s 36 public elementary schools.

This year’s offerings begin with soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, flag football, volleyball and golf in the spring, and baseball in late spring/early summer.

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We’re also planning to offer a full menu of seasonal sports in 2019-2020. New this fall is a middle school sports program, sponsored by the same partners, with practices at each of Tacoma’s middle schools. We’ll pilot the program this academic year with flag football in the fall and soccer in the spring. Registration for middle school flag football begins Aug. 27, with practices beginning Nov. 3. For soccer, registration has already begun and ends Sept. 10. Basketball registration starts Oct. 8. The cost is $55 per six-week season per sport; financial assistance is available

Metro Parks and its partners are expanding these services because we know getting kids moving promotes good health in mind, body and spirit. Players get to build their skills and learn to work as a team. Scheduling weekly practices at neighborhood schools also encourages walking and eliminates transportation barriers.

This year Metro Parks is knocking down a major barrier to access by offering online registration for all participants. It’s no longer necessary to complete applications on paper (unless there’s a need for financial assistance). Parents can now simply sign students up by computer or cell phone. Nevertheless, Metro Parks will gladly accept handwritten applications anytime.

Last winter, I got a firsthand look at how the program works while volunteering for my nephew’s basketball team at Grant Elementary. It was fun to give a few pointers to an energetic group of kids and build relationships with them.

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Personally, I’m very excited about this expansion of our school-based offerings because I grew up playing sports and know how valuable it is for kids to participate. The middle school program will be open to anyone who wants to play; middle schoolers won’t have to compete to win a spot on a roster. Even better? It’s affordable for all families!

Through our youth sports programs and others, Metro Parks Tacoma strives to create opportunities for everyone to play, learn and grow. Our aim is to ensure that Tacoma thrives as a healthy, resilient and sustainable community – a place we’re all proud to call home.

Jessie K. Baines Jr. is serving his first term as an elected member of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners. He has participated in youth programs for three decades as a player, volunteer and coach.