Two groups are trying to bring more athletic opportunities to children in Smithfield and Selma.
One group has launched a forum for people to talk about problems and brainstorm ideas for youth sports. The other group is made up of town and school leaders hoping to offer kids more sports options before high school.
David Moore, who moved back to Johnston County about eight months ago, grew up in Selma and played sports throughout his youth. He graduated from Smithfield-Selma High School in 1995 and then played football for Wake Forest University on a scholarship.
Sports were important to Moore while growing up, so when he moved back, he wondered why Smithfield and Selma didn’t offer more athletic options for kids, especially before high school.
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Right now, the two main options are the Selma and Smithfield parks and recreation departments. Outside of those recreation leagues, kids don’t have many options, Moore said.
So Moore started a forum where people can talk about any problems they might have with sports programs in the area. Anyone is invited, especially students, parents and coaches.
The group has met three times: first in Selma, with about 20 attendees, then Smithfield with about 10, and then in Selma again last Thursday. So far, Moore has heard people complain about lack of funding, where to buy equipment and cost.
“The main piece is trying to get the community more active, more engaged in really supporting our youth and really trying to build something here for the 21st century,” Moore said.
The focus, he said, will be tying education to athletics and making sports a way of helping kids do well in other parts of their lives. “If you’re not doing well in your academics, sports shouldn’t matter,” Moore said.
Essentially, people can come to the meetings and talk to others about their concerns. Moore and three others take notes at the meetings. By spring, they hope to have a list of priorities. Then the group will reach out to the parks and recreation departments and schools in an effort to tackle the priorites.
At one meeting, Moore said, a family asked about where to buy their child’s sports equipment. Another asked about social media protocal: Should a coach friend his players on Facebook and hold them accountable to what they say online? Another issue is transportation: What if the athletic field is far away and the child has no way to get there?
Moore wants to bring pride back to Smithfield and Selma sports teams and get the community, including businesses, involved in youth sports.
Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Tim Johnson said Moore’s group is a great idea.
About a year ago, Johnson began talking with Selma’s parks and recreation department and with coaches at Smithfield-Selma High. Students in the neighboring towns often don’t have a chance to play together before starting high school.
In the their first formal meeting last week, the three groups talked about creating a sports academy, a separate nonprofit supported financially by the towns.
The sports academy would be geared toward students who want more advanced instruction than the typical recreation league offers. It would include not only basketball, football and baseball but also swimming, wrestling and volleyball, among others.
“The two groups have the same goals,” Johnson said. “There’s a need for and there’s interest in it, and I think that can only be good. At the end of the day, it’s all about the children and making them not only better athletes but better citizens and people in our community.”