What It's All About

By Fred Engh
Photo Courtesy of NAYS

For Christi DeLoach, sports have always been a huge—and incredibly rewarding—part of her life. Whether it’s playing and competing or organizing and supervising, they have an impact on everything she does.


“Sports have been a part of my life since I was very young, and it is where I am most comfortable,” says DeLoach, who has spent the past 14 years with the Columbia County Recreation Department in Georgia, including the last 10 months as assistant athletic supervisor. “It has been a positive in my life, and I learned a lot of life skills through sports. Whether it’s at work, with family, or wherever, I think everything follows the same principles as you do with a team. You have a coach, a goal, and the team works together unselfishly to achieve the goal.”

The county staff members do exactly that, providing a diverse offering of sports programs for roughly 4,500 kids ranging in age from 4 to 15.

Here’s what else DeLoach had to say about the highs and lows of providing quality recreation programs for children:

Fred : Has anything happened recently that serves as a reminder of how valuable your work is?

Christi : This past summer I ran into a girl who came up through my leagues and who also went on several all-star trips that I took out of town. She has since married and graduated, and was telling me that of all the softball she played, she missed those rec-league trips. Seeing her expressions as she told story after story is what the experience is really all about and makes it all worth it for me.

Fred : What is the biggest challenge your department faces?

Christi : Keeping the older kids involved in the leagues and getting quality coaches who are more concerned with teaching rather than winning.

Fred : Do you do anything special to recognize your program’s volunteers?

Christi : We have a volunteer banquet the first of the year for all of the previous year’s coaches and their assistants. There is a catered meal, and we recognize our coach of the year, selected by the staff, and there is usually someone inducted into the recreation department hall of fame. We also give out service pins.

Fred : What was the worst day on the job you ever had?

Christi : While I was staffing a football game one night, a parent started yelling at a player about a late hit on the near sideline. The parent of that child reacted, and then several adults were engaged in an aggressive verbal altercation in front of those 9- and 10-year-old boys. Police were called, but thankfully things did not become physical.

Fred : What is your department’s most popular program?

Christi : I would have to say our U6 leagues. I think it is due to the parents wanting to get their children involved and active as early as possible. Kids are definitely playing organized sports at a much younger age than we did.

Fred : How have your own youth sports experiences impacted how you approach your job today?

Christi : I had great coaches who taught life lessons as well as the game. I still remember the advice my coaches gave, both the good and the bad. It is about more than just the game because the kids are watching and taking it all in.

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via email 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.