The crack of bats on balls and the sounds of cheers from players on the field and fans in the stands fill the evening air during a drive by pretty much any Vancovuer Island ball field this month.
Fastball players ranging in age from just starting out to the bearded members of men’s teams who’ve been playing for years are out in full force, with several games occupying the cluster of fields from Sooke to the North Island.
It’s great to see so many participants taking part in an activity that benefits all involved on so many levels. Team sports of any kind provide kids with the opportunity to get fresh air and exercise and develop athletic skills they may not discover otherwise.
Playing on a fastball, football, soccer or hockey team goes beyond the physical fitness elements for the youth that are our future. Many develop life skills they will carry throughout their adult lives. They learn about the importance of teamwork, self confidence and self discipline and other qualities they lean on throughout the career paths they follow, wherever their journeys take them.
In many cases, sports are also responsible for forging friendships that last a lifetime.
It’s important to acknowledge as well the dedicated core of parents and volunteers who step up to the plate to support the kids taking part in the sports opportunities served up.
Thanks to the coaches who give up their free time to work with the kids, as well as the umpires and referees who show up for the love of the game and, in many cases, the chance to give something back to a sport that was instrumental in their own personal development.
Let’s not forget about the timekeepers and scorekeepers who shiver away in the wind and the cold to keep track of what’s going on during the games.
Kudos to the volunteers who serve up the hot dogs and hot chocolate in the concession stands, which help raise funds that enable youth sports to thrive, even in tough economic times.
The parents who organize registration and spend hours on the phone dealing with schedule changes or arranging tournaments all deserve a tip of the cap.
The many businesses that sponsor, support and fund the purchase of uniforms and equipment to ensure players have what they need deserve honourable mention as well.
We are fortunate to have so many people dedicated to providing options for youth in our community, and Vancouver Island is a better place because of their efforts.