Winning Ways in the Wolverine State

Article excerpt

TROY, MICH.

With a population of more than 10 million and a fanatical thirst for sports in every professional, college, high school and amateur season, Michigan is home to any number of venerable recreation- and leisure-oriented communities. But Troy stands out as a Sportstown because of its unmatched record of assessing, responding to and tailoring the various recreation centered activities to all of its residents. The result is a slate of high-quality and far-reaching programs and facilities that service preschoolers, youth, adults, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

Troy, a community of 81,000 about 25 miles north of Detroit, is part of a metropolitan area including more than five million people. Therefore, park land and open space are at a premium. Troy Parks and Recreation (TPR) recognizes the increasing community importance of preserving and developing these pleasant public spaces as well as making natural, historical and cultural features available. As a result, one if its stated goals is to acquire and protect these valuable resources and facilities for the benefit of future generations.

Not only docs TPR aim to balance competitive programs with recreational offerings, but also carefully evaluates the nature of this balance as it pertains to different age groups. Up to the third-grade level, TPR programs and the coaches emphasize the building of self-esteem, fitness, and wholesome, enjoyable experiences so as to forestall "burnout" when kids are introduced to more competitive scenarios later on. Scores and standings are not kept until the fourth-grade level, and even then all children receive activity awards and certificates, thereby ensuring the focus remains on the cornerstone of any pursuit meant to last a lifetime -having fun.

TPK is always aiming to increase the quality of the services its personnel deliver through education, training and focused recruitment. It actively maintains and improves techniques to better train its coaches, especially its many parent volunteers with limited coaching experience. Making parents ol team members mure aware of TPR's youth sports philosophy- i.e., making sports fun, positive and non-competitive-is also a priority. Finally, TPR does all it can to find the most qualified and experienced sports officials to ensure equity of play and participants' familiarity with the rules and regulations of sports of their choosing.

The specific programs TPR provides are varied, spanning the gamut of its constituents' ages and abilities. Formal athletic leagues are offered to both children and adults, while sports include soccer, basketball, golf, volleyball, tee-ball and softball.

Rather than relying solely on competitive exploits for a sense of merit, these leagues provide environments where participants can learn new skills, connect with others, and enhance ethnic harmony. …