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In Sports Commentary

Team sports can play an important role in child development.

In Sports Commentary

A city-sponsored sports prgram could be the envy of suburbs and the rest of the country.

Supporting youth sports is a wise investment for city

I read an article in the local newspaper this week about the trouble some youth athletic teams are having finding space to play.

It seems there are so many teams demanding playing time that some communities are taxed to the maximum and are struggling to find playing fields.

The article talked about Muskego, Menomonee Falls, Brookfield and a number of other suburbs.

One place it didn't talk about was the City of Milwaukee.

For a moment after reading the article, I was surprised. Then I thought about it; I drive a lot around this city and I hardly ever notice kids playing sports. I know there are a couple of little league organizations, but that's about it in the city.

I see lots of 20-, 30- and 40-somethings playing volleyball, soccer, softball and basketball. There is a very active organization called the Milwaukee Social Club that organizes sports for singles, everything ranging from bowling to football to soccer and ultimate Frisbee. Thousands of people have joined.

What you don't see are kids with batting helmets and gloves that look too big for them; no 10-year old knocking the dirt out of her cleats; no 12-year old holding up his index and baby finger, telling teammates that there are two outs; no kid on his knee, drawing a pass pattern in the dirt.

There are thousands and thousands of kids in Milwaukee. And most of them don't have the advantages of their suburban counterparts. One of those advantages is an organized structure for sports. I know there's this crusty minority that says "I didn't need no organization when I was a kid, we just played ball on the corner lot." Well, those days are long gone and now we need somebody to organize this thing.

A recent study printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cited several benefits to participation in youth sports:

Development of sports and fitness skills.

Development of social skills such as leadership, communication, teamwork and community service.

Development of lifelong fitness habits.

Development of greater self-confidence.

Development of attitudes that reduce the chance of smoking.

The things the study left out, of course, are that sports for kids are fun. Lots of fun.

Unfortunately, it takes more than youth to make a good youth sports program. It takes adults to organize, pay and oversee the activities.

Now, I am not a guy who looks to government to solve all our problems. As a matter of fact, my general rule is that less government is better.

But, I think I've got an idea that might actually do something to help make Milwaukee a better place to live. Both immediately and, perhaps more importantly, in the future.

We have 15 aldermanic districts in the city. Now, our aldermen are very busy. Recently they named Mongoro, Tanzania, a sister city; they battled the incredible spread of illegal fireworks; they made sure citizens knew that racial tensions were not part of the melee at Juneteenth Day and they keep fighting about an ordinance to ban smoking in bars.

These are, obviously, very important manners.

But here's an idea: Let's create Milwaukee Aldermanic District Athletic Teams. The acronym is MADAT. Let's have each alderman identify a handful of people in their district who can run things. Let's actually appropriate some city money for this. And let's find the people who donate money for social service programs or money for yet another building. We could also add an additional $100 or so to each liquor license issued by the city. Maybe a Brewers or Bucks player would kick in a few thousand dollars, too.

Let's just make sure that they come up with the money so it becomes a real program, not some scraggly pickup kind of thing. The suburbs do it where parents pay, sometimes significant amounts, to fund their youth sports programs.

When you think about the money Milwaukee spends on stuff that doesn't really matter, you realize there is something we could do -- for relatively little money -- that stands a chance of making a huge difference.

This could be a real competition between aldermanic districts, with a prize to the winning team and to the winning alderman. And the city winner could challenge other areas to a game or a series or something.

There are lots of issues to consider regarding this proposal. And I'm sure people will come up with lots of ideas why it can't work.

But maybe with our new "can-do" attitude, we can build a youth sports program that would be the envy of the suburbs and the rest of the country as well.


CarolV | Aug. 24, 2007 at 3:03 p.m. (report)

I'm totally supportive of sports and outdoor opportunities in the city, but as a city resident, I feel obliged to mention a few that do already exist--a couple of options that are consistently out there in Milwaukee are: the Bay View Redcats organization (not the school, but the sports organization) with leagues in football, baseball, chearleading and other sports opportunities all year long. There's lots of Milwaukee recreational leagues and rec programs in the Milwaukee Public Schools through the Recreation Guide. And there are MPS sports teams as well as parochial sports leagues in Milwaukee during the school year. And then there's the Milwaukee Kickers...and the Running Rebels organization, there are recreational sports opportunities through Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, COA, IndependenceFirst wheechair sports...I'm sure there's more. There's opportunities to not be overlooked, but there could certainly be more, people just need to look for them.

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Jon | Aug. 24, 2007 at 10:43 a.m. (report)

Mr Begel, Again a great idea from you, but unfortunately it will fall on deaf ears. City officials will tout things like this to garner a few votes but when it comes down to it nothing will happen. Out of the 15 Aldermanic districts, how many do you really think could support this. Inner city districts that could desperately use this won;t have the community backing. Outlying districts won't want to send kids/teams into "questionable" districts. I would love to see this happen, but someone high up (Sheriff David Clarke??) would need to endorse it. I cannot see Mayor Tom Barrett pushing anything like this, but with elections coming up maybe now is the time!

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