Louisville Parks and Recreation is making club/competitive volleyball accessible and affordable to area youth

volleyball

By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
Contact Walter

Over the last decade or so, the evolution of club/travel sports has grown into big business. For kids who aspire to play their chosen sport at the next level, it has become almost a necessity.

That “next level” once referred mostly to college sports, but now, with club/travel sports starting with kids as young as six in some sports, that next level today may refer to high school.

According to a TIME Magazine article published in August, senior writer Sean Gregory explores the growing business of kids’ sports — a $15.3 billion industry that has nearly doubled during the past 10 years. The article indicates that between league fees, camps, equipment, training and travel, families are spending as much as 10% of their income on sports, according to survey research from Utah State University.

Some might question how parents justify such an expense. The response from many parents is…  “I want to give my child the opportunity to compete at the next level and realize their dreams.” Or, “I’m hoping the investment will pay-off with a college scholarship.”

To sports enthusiasts, their reasoning is somewhat valid.  A USA Today article published in May released the results of a NCAA survey of 21,233 current college athletes. The survey asked student athletes if they’d played club/travel sports prior to college. Athletes in a few sports overwhelmingly reported they played on a club team.  For women’s college volleyball, 91% indicated they competed on a club volleyball team.

What if a parent can’t afford for their child to play club sports, specifically club volleyball?  It’s true that lots of talented and passionate athletes are in fact being priced out of the club system.  In fact, it’s becoming increasingly harder to even make your high school team if you’re not involved in club sports during the off-season.

So what are some solutions?

One of those gaps has been filled by the Metro Parks Volleyball Academy (MPVA) in Louisville. MPVA is preparing to compete in its second year of club volleyball. Initial discussions for the program started about two years ago between Adam Barrett, Center Supervisor at Cyril Allgeier Community Center and KIVA (WHAT IS KIVA?) officials.  The purpose of the program is to break barriers preventing young ladies from playing club volleyball that include financial limitations and experience.

The team is coached by Lauren Benz, an eighth grade math teacher and volleyball coach at Highland Middle School and a passionate advocate for MPVA.

““I am so passionate about coaching for MPVA. This program gives ANY player a chance, regardless of their school, to play volleyball at a competitive level and not break their parent’s wallet,” said Benz.

Benz indicated that in some cases, it’s not always about the ability or willingness to pay, but the school the player attends. Those who follow high school volleyball in Kentucky know that Assumption, Sacred Heart and Mercy, all private Louisville schools, routinely are the top competitors in high school volleyball.

“If your name doesn’t appear on one of those rosters, your chances of playing club volleyball on some of Louisville’s top teams is a longshot” said Benz.

“I played volleyball for a small high school here in the city which didn’t have the reputation or lineage for competitive volleyball,” she said. “I strongly believed that’s part of the reason why I, unfortunately, struggled to make several club rosters.”

During the first year, MPVA went 15-17.  They participated in three tournaments, three power leagues and three organized scrimmages.   According to Barrett, who also serves as MPVA’s Club Director, and Coach Benz, the average cost for club/competitive volleyball in the Louisville area is about $2,500 annually.   MPVA costs a total of $500, which includes customized uniforms.

Mia is a 14-year-old freshman at Atherton High School.  She started playing volleyball in a recreational league at Cyril Allgeier at the age of nine.  Mia, who already stands 6’0, plays. middle or outside hitter, and would love to play volleyball in college. Her career goal is to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Jordan is several years younger.  She’s 11 and a 6th grader at Jefferson Tradition Middle School (JCTMS).   Jordan initially began playing volleyball at Southeast Christian Church, but later moved over to playing regularly recreational volleyball at the age of eight at Cyril Allgeier.  Jordan is a 5’7 defensive specialist.

Recently I had the chance to catch-up with Coach Benz and a few of the players and parents.  Meet Mia Tyler and Jordan Cathey.

volleyball2

Mia’s parents (James and April Tyler) love MPVA, and the coaching style of Coach Benz.

“We love watching Mia play, and her ability to adapt to instruction and apply it to game situations,” said April Tyler.

Joseph Cathey agreed.  A man of a few words, Joseph said,

“At the end of the day, I want Jordan to have the opportunity play a sport she enjoys, and just have fun!”

Barrett reflected on what he felt was the most memorable moment from the first season. Adam pointed to the match against Prodigy, a well-established club team from Sellersburg, Ind.

Adam Barrett
Adam Barrett, Coach Benz and Assistant Director of Recreation Ben Johnson 

“We understood the risks of starting a junior club team,” said Barrett. “We knew why it should work, but were a little nervous as to if it would work.   On January 14, 2017, we were playing Prodigy.  We lost the first set 18-25, before coming back to win the second set 25-16, and the third set 15-12. It was right after that match when the “if” became “yes”…  It will work,” said Barrett.

With the skyrocketing costs and pressures of club sports, the element of “fun” often takes a backseat to winning.  One of the youngest players on the team last year was Savanah Scarlott, a seventh grader at Highland Middle School. When she wasn’t on the floor, Savanah danced around the sidelines while cheering for her teammates. It was that small, yet refreshing reminder that volleyball, like all sports, were meant to be fun despite all of the pressure of winning and individual performance placed on young athletes.

Several parents made it very clear that while MPVA was a more economical alternative to the larger clubs, the instruction and player advancement from Coach Benz was top notch. Others pointed to the team atmosphere and camaraderie as highlights during the first year.

Apparently, other players and parents took notice.  Interest in MPVA has grown tremendously, sparking the club to add two additional teams for this upcoming season.   MPVA will suit up three teams: 12 & under, 14 & under and a 16 & under.  Barrett and Benz indicated they’ll have three head coaches this year, and one assistant for each team.  One of the coaches will focus on strength and conditioning. Tryouts for this year’s teams were held in mid-November.

For more information about MPVA, email Adam Barrett at Adam.Barrett@louisvilleky.gov.

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Planting a Tree to Remember Those Gone

IMG_3328In the world of work, the focus always seems narrowed to profits, strategic plans, productivity, but rarely to the lifelong relationships established within companies and organizations. For most of us who spend nearly as much time on the job as we do awake at home, our colleagues often become our second family. From the sharing of baby pictures, wedding shower gift exchanges, and Girl Scout cookie purchases, to weekend hunting/fishing trips, sporting events, etc… it’s easy to see how many co-workers share a bond similar to that of families.

So it comes as no surprise to us when a group of Louisville Parks and Recreation employees, on their own time and with their own resources, decided to memorialized fellow coworkers who passed away. Befittingly, they decided the best way to do that was by planting trees in our parks and on our golf courses; places where bonds of friendships were formed. Trees are too the lifeblood of our planet. Their leaves and bark suck up harmful pollutants and release clean oxygen allowing ALL of us to breathe.
tree memorial
According to Joshua Wysor, a former Parks Union Steward, the idea of planting trees to memorialize colleagues who passed away surfaced last year following the death of Ronnie Hardin, Sr., a longtime parks employee who had recently died. Wysor said he was approach by fellow parks employee Todd Board asking if they could do something like plant a tree to honor Ronnie’s life and service.

Wysor liked the idea, and after asking around, quickly received full support from several current and former employees. After consultation with Hardin’s son (Ronnie Jr.), many current and former employees decided to plant Hardin’s favorite tree (Flowering Dogwood) in Hardin’s favorite park (Cherokee Park). In addition, Wysor and other also planted a tree in memory of another colleague – Roger “Bay” Ellington who died in 2015. Afterwards, during a picnic, the group decided to continue the tradition following the death of a co-worker.
tree memorial 2
This year, Wysor and the team got together to honor three more colleagues who passed away. Tom “Elvis” Jordan passed away last winter, Michael Clayton and Chris Badgette died earlier this year. Wysor and the team planted an Umbrella Magnolia for Jordan (Magnolia was his favorite tree) along Beargrass Creek in Cherokee Park, a Carolina Silverbell in Clayton’s favorite park Chickasaw Park, and another Carolina Silverbell for Badgett (who worked in Golf Maintenance) at Seneca Golf Course.

“What an appropriate way to pay tribute to fellow co-workers,” said Seve Ghose, Director of Parks and Recreation. “Trees not only stand as a symbol of remembrance for those gone on, but as a vibrant living species to be enjoyed by those living and future generations.”

March Madness Continues into April with a Local Team Competing in the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament

Louisville Spokes and Spires
Louisville Spokes and Spires wheelchair team

By Walter Munday
Outreach Supervisor
e-mail Walter

Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend my first wheelchair basketball
game. I was on assignment taking pictures during a weekend tournament, and my
son tagged along with me. Just as we strolled along between courts, two
competing players crashed with one player/chair toppling over to the floor.

As the whistle blew indicating a foul, an arm extending from a nearby teammate uprighting the player/wheelchair, and the game played on. It was at that moment
when I realized that this was simply basketball where players/teams who loved the
game, regardless of their circumstances, were competing playing a game they
loved. As we were leaving, I asked my son what he thought about wheelchair
basketball, and his simple teenager response was, “they can ball.”

Next month, the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament will once again be
here in Louisville. The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and
Louisville Sports Commission are excited to host to the 70th anniversary of the
tournament, which is presented by ABC Medical. The tournament will run April 12-
15 in Louisville, Kentucky. The NWBT has been held in Louisville since 2013, and
overall will be making its 11th trip to Kentucky.

Wheelchair basketball first emerged around 1946 in the USA, developed by injured
servicemen from World War II. Most were former able-bodied players who wanted
to continue playing the game. The simple adaptations and slight rule variations for
people in wheelchairs allowed the sport to spread across the US, and eventually
worldwide.

This year, we are excited that the Louisville Spokes and Spires, a local
wheelchair basketball team, qualified for the tournament. Louisville Spokes and
Spires practices at Berrytown Recreation Center in eastern Jefferson County.

Berrytown Recreation Center is one of 14 Louisville Parks & Recreation Community
Centers. Louisville Spokes and Spires is a 14-member team playing in the NWBA’s
Division III. The players on the team range in age from 17 – 50(+). Herb Henry
and Jeremy Randall are two of the players. They were instrumental in forming the
new team three years ago.

They along with many of the current players were former members of Kentucky Hill on Wheels team, which won the Nationals in their Division in 2008. Members of Louisville Spokes and Spires team include: Herb Henry, BJ Bonmon, Charlie Coon, John Cirstofoli, Dustin Dove, Genc Hyseni, Micah Jackson, Jeremy Randall, Amy Verst, Luanne Thompson, Jimmy Green, Justin Harris, Andrew McCaffrey, and Beth Bryant. This will be their first time competing in the national tournament.

One of those competing is Genc Hyseni, a war survivor from Kosovo. Hyseni and
his family immigrated here when he was only two years old. Henry, a veteran
wheelchair basketball player, was a former University of Louisville football player.
His story has been well documented. In 1992, Henry was a victim of a shooting
when a fight broke out at University of Louisville’s Red Barn, a former industrial
building that beginning in 1969 was used as student event space. Henry was shot
twice paralyzing him.

Neither of these gentlemen let their circumstances dictate
their desire to compete, and are honored to be playing in this year’s tournament.

“I am very excited to have Louisville Spokes and Spires represent our City as we
host the NWBA National Championships. I’m looking forward to a great run with
lots of support from our local family and friends,” said Henry.

The National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) is comprised of over 200
wheelchair basketball teams across twenty-two conferences.

The NWBA was founded in 1948, and today consists of eight divisions including: Division I, Division II, Division III, Women’s Division, Intercollegiate Men’s Division and Intercollegiate Women’s Division, as well as Junior 10’ (Varsity) and Junior Prep Divisions. This year, there are a total of 98 teams coming to the tournament. That includes four different divisions for adults and also three divisions for juniors. There will be about 16 teams in our division.

Locally, our eyes will be on the Louisville Spokes and Spires. A member of the team,
Jeremy Randall, said, “The team has worked hard to get to this point. It is certainly validation of our efforts but we also know the toughest road lays ahead.”

Beechmont Community Center Hires New Supervisor

Tonya Cowden

By Walter Munday
Parks Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

A familiar face is the new Supervisor at Beechmont Community Center. Tonya Cowden, a former Recreation Assistant at the center since 2010, was recently hired to replace Kevin Kinney who was promoted to Recreation Manager.

Cowden joined Louisville Parks and Recreation in 2008 following a nine year stint with the Community Action Partnership. A native of Glasgow, Kentucky, Cowden is a graduate of Louisville Central High School and Kentucky State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

Cowden is a mother of three with one grandchild. When asked what her goals where for Beechmont Community Center, her response was simple,

“Elevate the work that’s been done at the center, which has a strong focus on partnerships and community involvement.”

Beechmont Community Center is located at 205 West Wellington Avenue in the Beechmont Neighborhood. It’s housed in the former Beechmont School which opened in 1912, and closed in 1975. The former school building became the Beechmont Community Center thanks to efforts of the Beechmont Women’s Club (now Beechmont Neighborhood Association) after the school closed. The center is one of 13 Community Centers managed by Louisville Parks & Recreation, and offers a wide array of programs, services and activities including: Arts & Crafts, Drama, Fitness, hot meals through the Kid’s Café and the Senior Nutrition Program, Pottery, Table Tennis, and so much more for kids and seniors. The center also has a weight room, and is a safe place for those looking for something to do.

Stop by and meet Tonya and her wonderful staff. And while you’re there, check out all of the center’s amenities.

Zach Newman – an “Extreme” star gets his start at local stake park

Zach Newman1

Zach (left) is pictured Louisville Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith, his wife Rachel, and his parents Kevin and Debi Newman.

By Walter Munday
Parks Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

Last July, Frankfort native Zach Newman finished 4th in the BMX Vert Competition at the World X Games in Minneapolis, MN.  Zach, the top USA finisher, placed behind Australian Vince Byron, nine-time winner Jamie Bestwick from the United Kingdom, and Chile native Coco Zurita.  Unlike his competition, Zach was underrated and unsponsored.  As an underdog, and he put himself on the world map at this year’s X Games.

Zach, 28, was born in Frankfort, KY, but fell in love with extreme sports at the age of eight.  This was during the 90s and early 2000s when “Extreme Sports” were gaining popularity.  In fact, the X Games and the Extreme Sports Channel had just launched.  Following the opening of the Louisville Extreme Park (now David Armstrong Extreme Park) on April 5, 2002, and the Tony Hawk‘s Secret Skatepark Tour at the park that year, Zach (approximately 12 yrs. old by this time) was totally hooked.

A few weeks ago, Louisville Parks & Recreation invited some professionals to the David Armstrong Extreme Park to test themselves on a new metal vert ramp that’s considered to be among the finest skatepark elements in the world.  The ramp was designed and built by G. Ramps AG, a German firm specializing in skate park elements construction, and the pieces were transported to the United States by a ship.  Zach, and few others traveled to Louisville to check it out.

Zach, along with his parents Kevin & Debi and wife Rachel came down.   I had an opportunity to catch-up with Zach and his parents, and learn a little more about his love for extreme sports.

“We would spend our weekends in Louisville,” said Debi.  “I was like the mother to all of the kids who skated at the park back then.”

Both Kevin & Debi like skating.   “I would skate the flat surfaces while my husband Kevin would venture into some of the smaller bowls.”

ZachNewman2

Zach, now 28, graduated from Frankfort High School in 2007.  He attended and graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a degree in photography.  Zach and his wife Rachel reside in Bellevue, KY, and he works full-time at a local skate shop.

According to an article published in his hometown paper (The State Journal), Zach indicated that he’s even more excited about his future now that he has one X Games competition under his belt.

“You always want to strive to be the top and the best, set the bar high, and that’s what I did,” Newman said. “Almost 20 years later, I’m still striving for that same goal, but now it’s within grasp. I feel like I solidified myself a spot in next year’s games and I’ll come swinging.

From New Mexico to Louisville – meet Tim Fulton, new Operations Administrator

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Tim Fulton, who last served as parks administrator in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is now serving in a similar capacity for Louisville Parks and Recreation.

By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter 

After more than 30 years on the job, Jackie Gardner retired earlier this year.  In search for her replacement, Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation cast the nets far and wide as part of a national search, and Tim Fulton, from New Mexico was hired as the new Operations Administrator.

Prior to arriving in Louisville, Tim was the Parks Administrator for the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Las Cruces is approximately 46 miles north of the Mexican border, 225 miles south of Albuquerque, and 48 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas. Las Cruces’ estimated population is approximately 101,643, making it the second largest city in New Mexico after Albuquerque.   Las Cruces is the home of New Mexico State University.

As the Parks Administrator, Tim oversaw the maintenance and management of over 100 parks, all city trees, about a dozen of sports fields, the city’s trail system, parkways and specialty parks that included a skate park, archery range, model airplane airport and a 640-acre natural area.

“During my tenure in Las Cruces, I introduced the concept of zone management, which provides the park workers with more autonomy which resulted in better maintained parks.  In addition, I developed an Integrated Pest Management Program, supervised the development of a tree inventory and forestry management plan.  I used my knowledge as a Certified Playground Safety Inspector to improve the maintenance the city’s playgrounds,” Fulton said.

While in Las Cruces, Tim was selected by the city manager to lead a team of city staff in the creation of a city-wide succession plan.  In addition, he was chosen to serve on the staff committee to explore and select projects for the city’s general obligation bonds.  Under Tim’s leadership, the Las Cruces Park & Recreation partnered with the New Mexico Department of Health through their Healthy Kids Healthy Communities program.

“Our role in this program was to lead the design and installation of way-finding signage and promotional materials to encourage youth and their families to use the city’s trail system,” he said.

Tim also served on the Las Cruces Bicycle Friendly Task Force and promoted cycling among city staff and elected officials through a program called Back on the Bike; a program which teaches participants the basics of safe bicycle commuting.

A native of central Texas, Tim is a big outdoor enthusiast.  He graduated from Texas A&M University, and received a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science.

“I enjoy spent my free time outside hiking, swimming and enjoying nature,” said Tim.  “That’s simply why I chose a career working parks & recreation. Originally, I wanted to a research biologist, but one of my professors was a wonderful teacher and I realized I had a passion for teaching others about my love of nature.  Parks and Recreation provided me with the opportunity to work with communities and develop programs and facilities that connect people and nature.”

Tim’s interest in Louisville Parks and Recreation began about 20 years ago when learned about our Olmsted Parks system.

“I heard great things about Louisville – a city moving in the right direction,” he said.  “Everyone I spoke with shared how much they loved this wonderful city, and its parks.”

Tim indicated that he’d been looking for an exciting and challenging new job, and felt confident he’d find that hear.

“All of this, plus the fact that Louisville’s Parks and Recreation department is an accredited agency made me want to be part of this team.”

Back to school kids! We had a great summer!

IMG_1470By Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation staff
e-mail us

We’ve had a great summer at Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation! Summer camps, outdoor programs, evening movie nights and events at our two historic homes … it’s been jampacked with lots of fun. We hope you enjoy the photo document below that we put together to chronicle all the awesome activities we’ve shared with you and your families.

We look forward to a great fall and are planning for Summer 2018 – we know it’s sure to be another great one!

Photo document:
Summer Fun @ Parks & Rec Photo Document.wmv