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Joint Recreation Board challenged on allegedly unbalanced youth teams
WAYNESVILLE/SAINT ROBERT, Mo. (Feb. 22, 2010) — When the Joint Recreation Board meets this evening to discuss local recreation for youth, for the first time in many years, its members will be planning a soccer season without the involvement of the Kiwanis Club. They’ll also be discussing the future of the area’s youth recreation program after concerns about the program voiced at Thursday’s meeting of the Waynesville City Council.

Councilman Mike France told his fellow council members Thursday that he’d been approached by a mother whose child’s team had just been beaten in basketball, another sport sponsored by the Joint Recreation Board, by a 40 to 0 margin and hadn’t won a game all season.

“The skills assessment that we used to even out the teams to where everybody stood a chance, that is no longer there under the current administration. I think we need to get some input in there to where we can level it out again,” France said. “To go there and never have the opportunity to win is, I think, inappropriate and defeats what we are looking for in a youth sports program.”

In Pulaski County, high schools and middle schools usually sponsor soccer for teenagers. That’s not the case for younger students, who generally participate in sports through local recreational youth leagues that are run by parents and not directly tied to school or city government.

Things are somewhat different in Waynesville and St. Robert, where an organization known as the Joint Recreation Board brings together representatives of the two cities, the Waynesville R-VI School District, Fort Leonard Wood, and — until recently — the Kiwanis Club of Pulaski County. Since the organization has official representatives from three elected governmental bodies and the part-time recreation coordinator is paid in part out of tax money, unlike most of the local youth sports groups, the organization is subject to the Missouri Sunshine Law and its legal requirements on open meetings and open records.

The Kiwanis Club was the organization that brought youth soccer to the Waynesville and St. Robert area, according to Kiwanis Club President Tim Berrier.

“Twenty-two years ago, Nelson Morgan brought up the subject of soccer before the Kiwanis and we thought it would be a program that would be very valuable life lessons for the younger kids, to be outside and to get some exercise,” Berrier said. “Approximately five or six years ago, we were approached by (Waynesville Park Board Chairman Roger) Olney to be a part of the Joint Recreation Board, and he said that if at any time we wanted to withdraw, Kiwanis soccer would be entitled to do so. With some situations that have arisen, and the end-of-season survey that Kiwanis did, we decided we would retake the Kiwanis soccer program over and bring it back under the umbrella and our board.”

That’s not going to happen, however. When the Kiwanis Club decided in December to withdraw from the Joint Recreation Board, board members sent out a press release indicating that the board members had decided to accept the Kiwanis Club resignation, effective immediately.

“The members of the JRB are disappointed in the Kiwanis decision and wish that the differences between the organizations could have been resolved,” recreation board members said in an official statement issued Dec. 18.

While the Kiwanis Club originally intended to keep their own soccer program, they eventually decided not to compete with the soccer program sponsored by the two cities, the school district and Fort Leonard Wood’s directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

“The JRB believes that it has the financial resources, manpower and facilities to offer this sport as it has always done in the past,” according to the recreation board statement.

The program will continue to offer soccer from ages 5 to 18, in addition to a mini-kickers soccer clinic for children from ages 3 to 5 and adult soccer.

“The JRB has decided that the JRB soccer program will have priority access to the soccer fields owned and maintained by JRB members as per the JRB agreement. This decision was made because of the considerable time, money and resources JRB members contribute to care for and maintain the fields,” according to the statement. “The Kiwanis requested certain equipment and personal information about players be turned over to it. The JRB has decided to decline these requests. As Kiwanis did not provide financial support to the JRB, the JRB decided that this equipment should remain with those that paid for it and used for the JRB soccer program. The information requested by Kiwanis was personal in nature, and therefore not to be turned over to an outside group.”

Berrier said that decision on field usage was a major reason Kiwanis decided not to offer a competing program.

“They feel the field usage will be primarily through the Joint Recreation Board and we need to go out on our own to find fields, which we feel will probably present a problem,” Berrier said.

Berrier said there were numerous issues raised by Kiwanis that didn’t get resolved in a way the majority of Kiwanis Club members believed was appropriate. Among those issues was T-shirt sponsorship for the youth teams.

“There have been T-shirts that were by a business they didn’t feel represented youth very well, and there was a team that went without T-shirts for the season,” Berrier said. “It is my understanding it was a tattoo parlor.”

Other problems included issues with the part-time recreation director, most of which were addressed in closed session as a personnel matter and aren’t public.

“We just had some communication problems,” Berrier said. “We felt there were other underlying issues and in executive session we gave our concerns to the recreation board … We felt that the actual answers were really not valid to some of the situations, they were just giving him an excuse, but it is my understanding from the St. Robert spokesperson that (the recreation director) was actually counseled on some of those problems.”

Berrier agreed with the recreation board members on at least one issue: he’s also sorry things didn’t get resolved.

“We are extremely disappointed that this situation didn’t work out; we tried to take every avenue to work through the guidelines. We felt we had a situation that was not going to resolve itself,” Berrier said.

While the Joint Recreation Board’s programs will no longer include the Kiwanis Club, recreation officials said they intend to expand rather than contract their offerings.

“The current members of the JRB are working on a new JRB agreement that will allow the organization to move forward and offer more and exciting sports programs not only for the youth of the community, but also adults,” according to the prepared statement. “The JRB is currently offering youth basketball with over 300 players participating, numbers considerably higher than last year. The JRB looks forward to an exciting spring season of soccer and baseball and hopes all youth and adult players will come out to play and enjoy the sports offered by the JRB.”

Several members of the Waynesville City Council want to make sure those youth sports offerings remain recreational and do not become competitive sports.

“Do we have a representative from the council or the park board, or is that left up to Roger (Olney)? How does that work?” asked Councilman Butch O’Riley.

“The reason I ask the question I have been approached by two or three different individuals over the last two or three months about changed that have occurred there and some of the issues that were going on there with some of the teams and teams not being evenly balanced,” O’Riley said. “If I understand correctly, it’s not a competitive program. It’s a youth recreational program so that kids can go experience a particular sport, soccer, basketball, whatever the case may be, and see if they have any interest to pursue it later on as a competitive program.”

France said the Waynesville representative to the Joint Recreation Board is Charles Kristek, who had been the board’s president until last year.

“I believe that we can get Roger (Olney) to give him a call and talk to him about that,” France said. “It may not be known to the board that it is like that, because they used to do skills assessment as a critical part of it. Right after everybody signed up, you would go into skills assessment and then the teams would be parceled out to the various coaches.”

Returning balance to the teams need to be a priority, O’Riley said.

“I’ve had five or six individuals who want to know who represents our city on that board and how do we know what is going on as a council, or do we know what is going on as a council,” O’Riley said.

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