Technology Is Nice, But People Still Make The Profession
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By Dale Weigandt
Let me start by saying that I’m an old dog who has been with the same Parks and Recreation District since 1973. Over the years, as a recreational programmer and now as the superintendent, I’ve had the opportunity to experience a lot of successes and a few awesome failures. With 12 days until my retirement, I’ve decided to share with you my concern as the recreation field moves into the future.
Yesterday, I conducted my final staff meeting. After 46 years of working for my park district, I made an interesting observation about our industry. In the meeting, several topics were discussed, including upcoming events and activities, all of which were reported on with subdued enthusiasm. The agenda then turned to a new online training plan for new hires. To this point, our staff seemed totally engaged and excited. It should be noted that this has been a district need for a very long time and the feeling in the room was more electric then I have felt in a long time. This really made me think.
The creativity that parks and rec people have always been famous for is now being channeled into “thinking outside the box” using your computer. It’s become way more than a tool, and we’re enamored with it. It’s the tool we use to register people, schedule rooms, write our brochures, train employees, pay people, and even communicate with our co-workers. It is challenging for parks and rec folks to keep up with the next great piece of software, how to apply it to our daily routines, and to make it effective for our workplace. We spend a lot of time with our computers, (to say the least) and yet our mission has and always should be serving the public with the best parks and recreation services we can muster.
The computer is an incredible tool; it keeps us organized, it allows us to keep our rooms scheduled properly, and in theory it should make our jobs easier. However, it can’t and won’t replace the human aspect that in this old guy’s eye is the key to ALL recreation programs. To that point, I think we need to find a balance. We need creativity and connectivity with people to make a community center more than a sterile building with rooms. After the computer monitor is turned off, we need to go down to our recreation swim and watch the kids play, or stroll out to your afterschool program and watch the children happily drawing with chalk, or walk into an adult classroom of watercolor students and look at what those students are creating. We need to allow ourselves to realize why we work in such an incredible field. Better yet, we need let our creative mind go, and think of ways to enhance these activities and/or create some new ones!
There are times when you really don’t need that electronic tool, just your own imagination.
Dale Weigandt was the Superintendent for the River Road Park & Recreation District in Eugene, Ore. He is now retired. Best wishes to you in your new endeavors and thank you for 46 dedicated years to this profession!