Casey Wooddell loved everything about his days as a youngster playing sports—the games, the coaches, the friendships, and the experiences.
“I still reminisce with my childhood friends about the good old days of playing ball together,” says Wooddell, the sports-activities supervisor for the Oxford Parks & Recreation Department in Ohio. “We hardly ever talk about the games we won, but more about specific experiences and about our coaches. The awards certainly aren’t as valuable as the memories.”
It’s those fun-filled memories that help fuel his efforts to ensure that youngsters in his program walk away with those same types of rewarding experiences that he enjoyed playing on the fields and courts during his youth.
“I keep this perspective fresh when planning and directing leagues and programs for our participants,” says Wooddell, who is a Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA) and a member of the CYSA Leadership Committee. “I focus on how to provide a fun, positive experience. I would love for the kids to grow up one day and spend time recollecting their days playing in the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department.”
Here’s what else Wooddell had to say about the joys and challenges of providing top-quality youth-sports programs:
Fred: What made you decide to choose this as a career?
Casey: Unfortunately, playing baseball never panned out as a career option for me. However, I entered college well aware of my two greatest passions—sports and kids—so Sports Management just made sense. About six months after graduation, I found a job posting for a Sports Coordinator for the Oxford Parks & Recreation Department and just knew it would be a perfect fit. I was blessed to be offered the position, and seven years later I’m still enjoying every day of my career. I’m thankful to have a purpose and the opportunity to impact others.
Fred: What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to youth sports?
Casey: It’s very frustrating to hear a parent being obnoxious and yelling at officials at a youth recreational basketball game. I don’t allow this to get very far in my leagues, but it still happens year after year. I’ve found that many times it’s a lack of education. Parents don’t understand the goals of the league, nor do they understand how difficult officiating can actually be. I once quieted a parent simply by offering my whistle to him and asking him to give it a shot. I’ve learned that remaining calm and talking with the parent is more effective than being confrontational.
Fred: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
Casey: Barry Larkin is my all-time favorite. I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. When I wasn’t pitching as a kid, I was mostly playing shortstop. Larkin’s hustle, passion, and work ethic were what I admired most about him. He was also a professional athlete who seemed to still have a true love for the game, almost like a kid taking the field every day. He was loyal to his team and somebody I aspired to be like. I remember dreaming as a kid about being “the next Barry Larkin.”
Fred: What would you like to see more of in your programs?
Casey: I would always like to see more quality coaches. I think one thing all youth-sports administrators struggle with is having enough parents volunteer to coach. Being a head coach is a lot of work and a big time commitment. It seems to always work out, but this is an area which is a constant battle. One strategy I utilize is getting parents involved early in their child’s teams, even if it’s just being an assistant. This helps build a comfort level, and that leads to more parents volunteering as their children get older. Another technique is providing an adequate amount of training and resources for the coaches so they’re comfortable with the position and responsibilities as a youth-sports leader.
Fred: What do you like best about your job?
Casey: Every day is another opportunity to plan and direct a program or activity to impact the lives of community members. The satisfaction of directly interacting with local youth and watching them grow and improve is invaluable. I truly feel as if I have a purpose, not just a position.
Fred: What are you most proud of about your department?
Casey: Growth. Every year brings new opportunities. Over the past seven years I have been involved in adding numerous showcases, tournaments, and programs designed to increase revenue, attract new groups and visitors, and provide more well-rounded opportunities. We work tirelessly to accept all new challenges and offer superior events and facilities. We continue to develop every year.
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 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.