By Fred Engh
Kim Turner loved competing in track during her high-school days. She thoroughly enjoyed being a member of the school’s cheerleading squad, too. But her favorite memories—the ones that still resonate and are powerful enough to put a smile on her face decades later—are from her days as a youth-sports participant.
And those memories have made a defining difference in how she handles the challenge-filled position of director of New Kent County Parks and Recreation in Virginia.
“My best memories were from recreation-youth softball,” says Turner, a member of the department since 2006 and its director for more than 3 years. “My mom was one of my coaches. In my job, it has encouraged me to look at the impact of parent-child relationships and creating a positive environment for both of them.”
Turner shares her thoughts on the rewards and challenges that accompany the position of providing an array of programs for kids ranging from pre-school to 15 years old.
Fred: Why are you so passionate about sports and youth programming?
Kim: My passion has more to do with what the sport creates versus the sport itself. Sports promote confidence, physical strength, time management, commitment, and more.
Fred: Share the best day on the job you have ever had.
Kim: There are so many great days—my career is a large part of my life. In relation to youth sports, I’d have to say the best memory is of a child with multiple disabilities who wanted to play basketball. Some questioned his understanding of the sport and his physical limits. After every “what if” had been addressed, the child went onto the court, with anxious hearts waiting. The child fell down on the first pass, got up, smiled, gained possession of the ball, and made a basket!
Fred: Are youth sports important in a child’s life?
Kim: Definitely! Sports promote physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual awareness! For some children, it is how they define themselves.
Fred: Concussions are on everyone’s radar these days. What does your program do regarding this issue?
Kim: We utilize the experts—local, state, and national health professionals. We provide and promote education to coaches, parents, and youth regarding concussions. The youth groups we organize, or partner with, utilize recommended best practices regarding concussions and safety.
Fred: What is the biggest challenge your department faces, and how do you handle it?
Kim: We welcome positive challenges that help our program grow. In youth sports, we continue to try to improve communication among staff, volunteers, parents, and youth. It is important to communicate a consistent message regarding the goals of the program. We also face parents over-scheduling their kids and having to find a balance with all of the activities. We are working on promoting quality versus quantity.
Fred: What is the best idea your department has come up with since you have been there, and how has it impacted your program?
Kim: We worked with the local community to develop co-sponsored and affiliated groups. These are youth organizations we do not operate, but we work with them on facilities, education, and advertising. These groups support the mission of parks and recreation.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit www.nays.org or contact Emmy Martinez at email@example.com or (800) 729-2057.