Speak From Experience

Photo: Courtesy NAYS

Growing up, Kevin Teate was fortunate to enjoy many years of fun-filled and stress-free youth sports participation. And he credits his dad for much of it.

“For the most part, all of my experiences in youth sports were good,” recalls Teate, the director of the PikeCounty (Ga.) Parks & Recreation Authority. “Most every year, my father coached my baseball team, and he always treated everyone on the team fairly. He never put pressure on any of the kids to win. He taught us to play our best, win or lose, and always display good sportsmanship.”

That life-defining lesson has stuck with him—and one he has been passing on to new generations of young athletes.

“That is the same approach I use today when I am working or coaching,” he says. “Play to win, but winning is not the ultimate goal in youth sports. It’s how you play the game, doing your best and setting an example for children and adults.”

Teate, who played in the New York Mets minor-league system for a few seasons, and is in his sixth year as the director at PikeCounty, shares more about providing quality experiences for youngsters ranging in age from 3 to 18:

Fred: What is the best idea your department has come up with since you have been there?

Kevin: The best program idea we have had has nothing to do with youth sports at all. For the past 2 years, we have offered a Daddy/Daughter Dance, with attendance tripling. Another point of pride is that we have become one of a select few recreation agencies in the state of Georgia to become a tobacco-free facility. We still have to remind people from time to time that we are tobacco-free, but it is important to be a good example to the children who participate in our programs.

Fred: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your job?

Kevin: I don’t know if it is one particular piece of advice or just several things I have learned over my 27 years as a recreation professional: You don’t always have the best idea. Listen to others around you. Always treat people with courtesy and in a professional manner. You’re not going to please everyone. Enjoy the good times because they go by fast.

Fred: What’s your favorite youth-sports memory growing up?

Kevin: In 1975, I participated in the American Amateur Baseball Congress Pee Wee Reese (11&12) World Series in Forest Park, Ga. I played for the Forest Park Expos, and the team made it to the championship game against Dallas, Texas. I pitched the first six innings of the game that went into extra innings with the score 0-0. Unfortunately, we lost in the seventh inning 1-0. The game was being filmed for a possible television broadcast, and Pee Wee Reese was in attendance. I was able to meet him after the game and get his autograph. It was a great experience that I will never forget.

Fred: What makes all the hard work and long hours worthwhile for you?

Kevin: It always makes me feel good when kids see me at the park and want to say hello. I smile when I think of all of the tournaments I have run, working long hours well past midnight sometimes, and the people I encountered and worked with along the way.

Fred: Why are you so passionate about youth-sports programming?

Kevin: Sports have always been a big part of my life. I participated in basketball and baseball in both youth sports and school sports. I have coached youth sports for many years, and sports are something I enjoy being around. When given the opportunity to work in the field of recreation, it seemed like a great fit for me.

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.