Pass It On

By Fred Engh
Photo Courtesy of NAYS

Growing up in Raleigh, N.C., in the late 1960s and early 1970s, young girls like Jane Bailey didn’t have many opportunities to participate in organized sports. But times have certainly changed there—thanks in large part to the enthusiastic and tireless efforts of Bailey and her staff at the city of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department.

“Part of me wants to be sure that every child in the Raleigh area has the opportunity to participate in sports,” says Bailey, who joined the department in 1983 and has been its Athletic Program Director for the past 8 years. “I love seeing kids on the baseball field or basketball court trying as hard as they possibly can. Sports teach a person about themselves and about life.”

While basketball is the department’s most popular sport—no surprise considering Raleigh sits in the heart of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball country—it also provides a diverse offering of sports programs such as football, baseball, cheerleading, volleyball, lacrosse, and track and field, among others.

“I have wanted to provide the best-quality program for kids to ensure that they enjoy sports and want to keep active throughout their lives,” says Bailey, whose department serves more than 7,000 youngsters ages 5 to 18.

Here’s what else the Raleigh native has to say about providing quality youth-sports programming for a large community:

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

Jane: Handle yourself with integrity at all times. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Actions speak louder than words. If you say you are going to do something, do it.

Fred: What is the best idea your department has come up with since you have been there, and how has it impacted the program?

Jane: A PRCR Scholarship Program was established by our department to provide funding for participants who may be unable to afford even the modest fees we charge for our athletic and other programs. Any citizen may donate to this fund, plus we receive a donation that is earmarked for the scholarship fund from a local photographer who does team and individual photography for our athletic leagues. Dozens of families benefit from this program annually.

Fred: Share a story that puts a smile on your face.

Jane: Over the years, there have been many stories that come to mind, but the latest is that every year the city honors one youth basketball coach with the Coach of the Year award. A committee of staff members working directly with the leagues selected the winner, and I was not involved in that process. This coach not only taught the fundamentals of the sport, displayed positive sportsmanship, and was a true role model, but also is a first-year coach who grew up playing sports and attending camps at the community center where I was the director. When receiving the award, he commented that he wanted to “give back” to what was very important to him as a kid. He obviously got the message, and has become a young professional in the community, impacting young people.

Fred: Is it a challenge to get kids to return year after year to participate?

Jane: It just has to be fun—that is what they remember, and if it is not fun, they won’t be back for the next season.

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 To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit or contact Emmy Martinez at or (800) 729-2057.