Junior Varsity
By John Dudley Erie Times-News staff blogger
Junior Varsity strives to be northwestern Pennsylvania's online gathering spot for pre-high school athletes, their families and fans.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-870-1677
Lesson No. 1 — have fun

I got involved in youth sports the way most parents do, by accident.

My oldest son, then 5, was at tee ball practice and his coach asked if I was interested in helping out.

Nearly nine years later, I am hooked. I have coached baseball and football teams at the rec and travel levels. Along with my close friend, I started a youth instructional flag football league that grew to include more than 250 kids. And I have served as a board member for the Millcreek Youth Athletic Association.

I can’t imagine a more rewarding way to spend my free time.

Yes, my golf game has suffered immensely. Yes, our weekends are shot. Yes, our bank account has taken a beating.

But I can’t begin to put a price on the value of the time and experiences I’ve enjoyed with my own kids and their teammates.

Some of my favorite moments have involved watching players who struggled to make contact all season in Little League get that elusive first hit, and the smile on their faces when they reached base to stay. Or players who were afraid to make contact on the first day in full pads execute a perfect form tackle in a game.

That said, I have made just about every mistake a youth sports coach can make, short of flat-out berating kids or putting my hands on them in frustration. I have gotten caught up in winning, lost my cool with referees and allowed parents to try to manipulate their children’s playing time.

All of those were great learning experiences, and because of them I never forget to remind kids — my own and those I coach — to have fun before every game or practice.

Youth sports — and youth sports coaches and parents — take plenty of heat these days because of the bad behavior of a few individuals. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like those negative stories threaten to outweigh the overwhelming majority of good things that happen in youth sports every day.

The aim of this blog is to tell the stories — both good and bad — that are so much a part of those of us who live on youth sports’ front lines.

Not every post will be this long. I hope many of them will highlight your own stories and achievements. Through the magic of technology and people much smarter than I am, you will be able to share not only your results but your photos, links and eventually even audio and video clips here.

I will mix in announcements of upcoming events, camps and clinics, along with some of my own experiences and observations and links to some of my favorite youth sports sites.

I look forward to renewing acquaintances with many of the great people I have met through youth sports and meeting new ones.

If you have a comment or suggestion, feel free to leave it here.

If you have something to submit, please direct it to me at john.dudley@timesnews.com.

Until then, remind your kids to have fun.

And then stop by and tell the rest of us about it.

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