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‘I’m not sports’

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By Brooke Coulter

My four-year-old, Cate, tells me, “I’m not sports” and she gets this very honestly not from her father, whom will play anything that involves a ball, but from me.  Growing up, I was always taller and not athletic. I would often get frustrated by the never-ending question, “Do you play basketball?” to which my answer would always be “no” in an annoyed tone.

I played a couple of years of teeball for the Shirt Tales. Granted, I wasn’t bad, but certainly knew after the second year that my softball career would probably conclude at that level. The older I got, the less athletic I was. I played Jr. League Golf through grade school and high school and even helped out to start a women’s league and during my first semester at St. Catharine College, I was a member of the first Lady Patriot golf team, but still, that non-athleticism shined through.

Although I’m clearly not athletic, I enjoy watching sports after many years of convincing myself it wasn’t so bad. My oldest nephew started playing teeball seven years ago and has continued to play league ball for Idle Hour Park and various travel teams. His younger brother and sister followed him in the love of the game, and I can proudly say that there are not too many games I miss. I never really appreciated the importance of sports when it could have benefited me most but have since seen the impact it has on so many kids. I have had the privilege of seeing different kids from different walks of life grow in a short season of the game.  

This summer, my husband helped coach my nephew’s Little League team with my brother-in-law. It started out as a somewhat discouraging season. Some players didn’t know the game, some thought they knew the game and a couple actually grasped the concept of baseball. I don’t have sons, but daughters who will have a good chance of following in my footsteps of “not being sports,” so I took this opportunity to absorb as much as I could this summer with this team. There would be games that my husband would come home and be so discouraged that he couldn’t seem to get through to this group of boys, and I would say, “It’s just a game,” and I would get the look.  The look of, “What do you know about it?” I would back off and go on. Luckily, about midway through the season, a light went off and these 9- and 10-year-old boys got it. They figured out how to play with each other; they meshed. I can remember being so proud of them even though they weren’t my sons. I saw many grow in baseball and, in a sense, life.  One player finally got his one and only hit of the season and I could have just gone out on the field and grabbed him in excitement. He was so proud and excited that he could have hit a home run and not been happier.  

There are so many people in this community who give countless hours and pounds of patience to make a difference in our children’s lives at Idle Hour Park, starting with Bernard Smalley our park director. I, in a way, became his shadow this summer while working on much-needed renovations sponsored by the city council and tourism commission. It would amaze me hearing the compliments and, even more, the complaints.

Having to please 200-plus parents and coaches is a task I’m not sure too many of us could handle. One night, we were standing and talking, planning what improvements were to be made the following day and a parent ever so casually walks up to give a complaint that I’m not really sure meant a “hill of beans,” and Bernard readily smiled and accepted the complaint as if it were a compliment and went on. I asked him shortly afterward how he handled himself so well to which he replied, “I’m not here for the parents, I’m here for the kids.”

I saw this the more that summer went on.  The guys who work and keep the park going often knew players’ names and situations. They were so approachable that the players couldn’t wait to report the score of their latest games to them. I can honestly say we have so many great parents that really give their time to coach so that league play is possible. It amazes me how many work a 40-hour week, and sometimes more, and still find time to come out and coach some rowdy 4- and 5-year-olds and know-it-all 11- and 12-year-olds and never complain. They see the difference they can make in a young life.  

The point of my story of would be that a city park is of major importance to a community. It provides opportunities to kids and citizens to learn the value of teamwork, which will be used throughout life whether sports are involved or not.  Idle Hour Park not only provides league baseball and softball; I have recently been walking/running at night since our season has ended and have been privileged to observe many other things going on other than baseball.

One night last week for instance, I saw 11 other people using the walking trail, eight people playing a pretty big game of Frisbee, a church group using a pavilion for a picnic and several people playing tennis. It was a prideful moment to see our park being a service to so many.

So, if you’re “not sports,” Idle Hour Park still has so much to offer to you. I am so proud to say I belong to a community that has this great spot and many great volunteers that make it possible and a grand success.