A Dynamic Duo

By Fred Engh

When Kathy Eber and her family moved to Florida a quarter century ago, one of the first calls she made was to Little League Baseball.

Kathy and Aileen. Photo Courtesy of NAYS

Kathy and Aileen. Photo Courtesy of NAYS

She wanted to know if there was a local league. She was told “yes”--when she started one. So she did. “President,” “board member,” and even “district administrator” were some of the titles she held through the years.

It’s that passion for providing opportunities for children that later led her to join  Hillsborough County (Fla.) Parks, Recreation and Conservation, where she now serves as the department’s assistant athletic specialist.

And ever since Aileen Henderson came on board, where she is now the youth-sports specialist, this dynamic duo has played ultra-valuable roles in enabling the department to provide truly memorable sports programming for the community’s youth.

That is a mountainous challenge, too, considering that more than 32,000 children ages 4 to 18 participated last year.

Eber and Henderson share their trials and tribulations:

What is the worst display of parent behavior you have witnessed?
AILEEN: Although my son wasn’t ready, he really wanted to play flag football, so I registered him. He struggled socially, and had some challenges with his teammates. Both coaches were parents to a couple of the boys on the team, and were indifferent to the way my son was treated, even refusing my help to assist.

I remember walking by parents of my son’s teammates and overhearing them tell the athletic director that if my son wasn’t removed, they would quit. Kathy witnessed my heartache through this ordeal.

How did the youth-sports experiences you had as a child affect how you handle your responsibilities today?
AILEEN: My responsibilities today are affected because of my mother’s involvement in my youth-sports organization when I was a child. She felt she needed a way to make sure I was being treated fairly in a male-dominated environment, so she became a board member. Her dedication to my positive youth-sports experiences aids in my dedication to my position today.

KATHY: Because my father was the athletic director for our school district, I was always around sports.  Growing up, I was a cheerleader in middle school and high school. As a result of his influence and my participation, I relish that, as an adult, youth sports is my career choice.

What puts a smile on your face?
AILEEN: My happiest days are doing spot checks on our facilities and seeing the children, parents, and coaches playing and enjoying youth sports.

KATHY: I enjoy attending opening ceremonies for Little League and seeing all the children in their uniforms out on the field.

What is the best piece of advice you have received that has helped you in your job?
KATHY AND AILEEN: We both agree that our manager, Nilo Menendez, once told us something that gets us through challenging times. He said: “Remember, these are volunteers that give freely of their time. Without them, we wouldn’t exist.”

As a result of his message, we respect and are very cognizant of their roles and responsibilities. We appreciate all of them, and do what we can to make their time as volunteers worthwhile memories.

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via e-mail at fengh@nays.org. To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit www.nays.org or contact Emmy Martinez at emartinez@nays.org or (800) 729-2057.