When the school bell rings for the final time each spring, children all over sprint out of class, ready for a carefree summer; three months of no homework, staying up late, trips to the lake or cabin, and keeping Mom and Dad even more on their toes. Luckily for parents, Boundary Country Parks and Recreation has many programs to keep active kids busy while teaching them great life lessons at the same time. Anne Tompkins is in her seventh year as sports director for Parks and Rec. “I love to be involved with my own kids and other children, and this is a great job for a mom,” said Tompkins.
Tompkins has also taken over the annual ‘Swish’ 3-on-3 basketball tournament held each year during Kootenai River Days. The tournament marks one of the most attended events during the summer celebration, and more and more teams continue to sign up. It’s growing interest in both kids and adults that drive Tompkins to continue to expand the programs available to the community. When she took over seven years ago, there was no basketball or volleyball leagues available to local youth, but now these are some of the most popular.
While many programs are available throughout the year, summer is an especially busy time. T-ball, flag football, soccer, tennis camp, fast-pitch softball and soccer camp are all available to local children. With the exception of future Babe Ruth Baseball for 9 to 10-year-olds at a cost of $45, every other program is just $25. Those in the community who would like to sponsor a child who might otherwise not be able to afford it can also make a $25 donation so a child can participate. Kids can begin participating at the age of 4 with varying levels of coaching and competition through the age of 13.
In order for these youth sports programs to be a success, community members must continue to step up in various ways. “We are always in need of volunteers, especially coaches, people helping with fundraising and sponsors as well,” said Tompkins. If you don’t feel like you have the skills in a particular sport to share as a coach, you can sponsor a team through a financial donation. Your business is recognized several ways throughout the year. Coaches don’t need to be experts in their particular sports, but knowledge of the games rules and basic strategy is necessary. Coaching 4, 5 and 6-year-olds is much more about introducing kids to different sports and encouraging them to work as a team and good sportsmanship. As the age groups get older, those with more advanced knowledge of the sport will teach more thorough skills and strategy to those thinking about pursuing a more competitive game or training to become a high school athlete. Boundary County Parks and Recreation is also always looking for those who want to take turns at the concessions stand or umpire/officiate the games. “Coaches who step up to volunteer get to register their child for free, one way we say thank you,” said Tompkins.
“We are all working to provide the youth in our community with some fun and positive activities and making our community a better place,” she added. Through youth sports, children gain many life lessons that are hard to find in a book or being told by an adult. Working together as a team with a common goal, and coping with defeat and the ability to get back up and try again, are some of the best lessons sports can provide. Kids must work as a team with people they know and those they don’t, and many begin developing their leadership skills during this time. It’s the hope of all that love sports and the outdoors that children will develop a passion for leading an active lifestyle at this young age so they avoid becoming a couch potato later on in life. Watching kids go through these programs for years, Tompkins has seen firsthand the benefits to getting kids active early: “It’s all about being out there, being active and healthy. Our programs allow them to socialize on a different level than while at school.”
Whether it’s putting the ball in the back of the goal, a swoosh through the net or smacking it off of a tee, there are plenty of great opportunities this summer to introduce your child into the sports we’ve all grown to love. We don’t all grow up to be pros, but the lessons we all learned during our own time in youth sports have likely carried with us throughout adulthood. If you’ve never coached a team, make this the summer you truly make an impact on young people, as it’s more about presence and positive attitude than training the next All-American. Put your child on the path to a healthy and active life by getting them involved at a young age; they’ll thank you for it sooner than you think!