“I’m the proudest of the kids,” said Brunies. “There’s so many things I can say about them and how they’ve grown in the sport and as people. Those kids are being talked to about the themes.”
Chappapeela Sports Park began hosting its Recreational Baseball, Coaches Pitch, Tee- Ball and Softball league on March 20 and officially ended on May 30 with Championship Games. Three teams were triumphant in the spring softball and baseball leagues. The 6-8 Vols, 7-8 Nationals and 9-10 Blue Jays won.
According to CSP Deputy Director Amber Grose, the league included practice plans and support for coaches, a service no other local park offers to recreation programs.
The park’s motto of: “Providing the finest recreational facilities and programs to the youth in Hammond Area Recreation District at a low cost,” mirrors the personal and professional attitudes of the staff.
“We want to engage the community in our programs to offer technical, tactical, psychological and character development,” said Grose. “CSP is interested in developing the entire child for success in our immediate league and beyond.”
Athletes participated in fundamental training clinics and athletic testing prior to the league starting. Character development was a large aspect of the season, contributing to consistent announcements of players and themes of the week.
The following themes concerning model behavior were introduced to those involved in the league, especially the athletes on each team: being on time, goal setting, the “buy-in,” sportsmanship, teamwork, coachability, work ethic, communication, self confidence and leadership.
A scavenger hunt was held on the first day of championships on May 29. It was used to recap the 10-week theme program to reiterate the importance of the relationship between sports and character development.
“Each week we asked coaches to add these themes into lessons in practices or at games,” said Grose. “The scavenger hunt was a cool way for players to showcase what they had learned about them all.”
Angels coach Jeff Cooper was thankful for his team’s attentiveness. He believes that the themes of the week complemented his instruction.
“The themes of the week were critical at points,” said Cooper. “When I mentioned those things, they implemented them.”
Prior to the league beginning, Chappapeela hosted annual coach’s meeting(s) to define the park’s expectations throughout the league. This year, a change was made with the training of umpires through a day full of on the field training.
“They spent several hours learning the rules of baseball,” said Brunies. “A lot of them had knowledge of the game and had years of experience, but they still came and participated. Everyone was on the same page as far as rules before the season started.”
Grose attributes the park’s success to their welcoming of feedback on leagues. While working closely alongside Director Ryan Barker and the Youth and Brunies, the trio has developed a blueprint for creating a well organized and sought after sports program.
“Our communication has really been a forefront of our concentration over the last year or two,” said Grose. “We want our customers to feel engaged in our program from beginning to end.”
Parents of Owen Hollander of the New York Yankees Jenny and Dan describes the sports park as a place designed for families. They recall noticing Owen benefit from positive team interaction early on.
“We like the way that Chappapeela values the family experience in playing sports,” said Jenny Hollander. “They work with the coaches, parents, kids and facilities.”
Amanda Sandefur whose daughter Nora plays for the Vols believes that the leagues offer a great chance to develop crucial skills in teamwork.
“The themes of the week are a good idea for the older kids to remind them of what being on a team is,” said Sandefur. “It changes their perspective of sports to remind them that it’s not all about them winning all of the time.”
New relationships between coaches and players developed in the midst of a natural learning environment.
Rangers coach Scott Domangue drilled the importance of learning fundamentals to his team. As a veteran coach, he noticed a chance in the teammates’ dedication to every single game.
“I’ve had 100% turnout all season,” said Domangue. “Some kids could barely throw a ball. I focused on making sure they knew the game, positions and how to move on the field. They showed perseverance and dedication.”
Blue Jays coach Kevin Torres believes that he taught his team the importance of teamwork. He believes that one of the most important aspects of playing baseball is knowing how to accept defeat.
“You can succeed three out of ten times in baseball and make the hall of fame,” said Torres.
“Being able to come back after failure so that you can go back and succeed is important.”
All coaches recalled teaching their team important lessons, but nationals coach Ryan Stribling equally values the lessons his young athletes taught him.
“This team reassured me that no matter the age, size and background, a kid is capable of doing anything if you reassure them,” said Stribling.
Chappapeela Sports Park administrators are extremely proud of the volunteers, parents, coaches and players who participated in the spring league. As a team, they are excited to implement their newfound knowledge into the upcoming fall sports league experience.