Sports

SIDELINES: Volunteers are the lifeblood of youth sports

Twin Lakes Swim Team
Twin Lakes Swim Team's Andy Olson swims the freestyle leg of the boy's 9-10 100 medley relay during their meet Thursday against Normandy Park.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

The summertime might be a slow time at the sports desk of the Federal Way Mirror, in terms of no high school sports. But the summer months are a huge time for youth sports.

Things like Little League baseball/softball and summer swimming programs are staples in Federal Way.

These organizations wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the work of countless volunteers who allow the kids to go out, have some fun and learn the valuable life lessons that sports provide.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of programs like Little League and the Seattle Summer Swim League (SSSL).

Federal Way National or Steel Lake Little Leagues, which include hundreds of Federal Way youth, wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for volunteers. Neither would the Twin Lakes or Marine Hills swim teams, which also include well over 200 kids.

And these organizations are excelling.

Federal Way National, for example, won a record four District 10 all-star championships recently, and all four teams will be playing at their respective state tournaments starting this weekend. Also, the Marine Hills Swim Team has become the gold standard in the SSSL. The summer swim team has won the past two All-City championships.

A lot of this success can be traced back to the volunteers who help run these summer programs, putting in countless hours of coaching, planning and organization. These organizations depend entirely on those volunteers.

Obviously, I have gained a big-time appreciation for the people involved in these organizations during my time as the sports editor at the Federal Way Mirror. But that appreciation has grown exponentially this year because I now have kids involved in both Federal Way National Little League and the Twin Lakes Swim Team this season.

It’s truly amazing the amount of time the volunteers put in. It’s very refreshing and extremely admirable.

In baseball/softball, none of the coaches get paid a dime for all of the hours they devote to the kids. Their paychecks come from seeing the players enjoy playing the sport of baseball and watching them improve. Little League is designed to build good citizens. No experience is required to become a volunteer and most duties require little or no training.

This is my son’s first season on the Twin Lakes swim team. Sitting through one of the meets is an amazing experience in the selfless act of volunteering. The Twin Lakes squad includes well over 100 kids from 4 to 18 years old, and the meets can last up to five hours.

During a meet, parent volunteers are asked to work as timers, occupy the concession stand, and coordinate the 72 different heats during the night. It’s truly organized chaos.

The impressive state of youth sports in Federal Way, however, might be sort of an anomaly. According to a lot of experts, volunteering is on the downturn throughout the United States. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of life.

The drop in volunteerism at the youth sports level can be traced back to the phenomenon of “select” teams popping up in every activity possible. In these programs, volunteering is not really required because coaches, for the most part, get paid from the fees collected from the parents.

But that doesn’t seem to be a problem in Federal Way, especially during the summer sports season. The youth programs are enjoying unprecedented success. They can thank the countless numbers of volunteers for the impressive results.

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