By Lee Weyhrich
CLAY — Clay Mayor Charles Webster last week assured parents that the city would take a more active role in the management of recreation sports in the city.
Early steps have included the purchase of new equipment and the hiring of Bill McLeod to handle sports programs on a full-time basis.
Two mothers addressed the Clay City Council last week regarding the unbalanced way players were fielded during the past football season. Another mother spoke in general about the leadership of the entire sports program and the examples that are being set for children in the community.
According to the parents, the same 15 or 16 players got the most time on the field, while the rest of the players warmed the bench. The consensus among the parents was that football should be less about competition and more about allowing everyone to play.
“These are 7- and 8-year-old boys,” a mother, Leia Windham, said. “They are not in high school.”
Approximately 44 players started the season and all but around 24 quit in frustration, Windham said. The city council has promised to try to find the best way to get more players involved in games.
Clay’s football teams are part of the Mid-State Youth Football Association, a competitive league.
“(Clay’s) numbers have definitely swelled,” MSYFA President Pevie Harlow said. “(In the last few years) you went from 16 to 35 or 40 at signup. So it is hard to get everyone in a competitive game.”
Harlow described this as a “growing problem,” not a problem that is getting bigger, but a problem that stems from growth.
Harlow, Councilman Ricky Baker and Webster all proposed ideas to make it easier for more children to play. These included starting a new non-competitive team, making a new set of bylaws that sets rules for team play, having parents set expectations to the coaches at the beginning of the season, and even splitting teams when they become too large for everyone to play.
Baker said Clay is one of the few cities to hire a full-time director to handle these issues. McLeod came into the season too late to affect football, but he has been organizing and advertising basketball since the day he took the position, Webster said.
“Our goal is to make it better,” Webster said. “I want every kid to have the opportunity to play. If you are going to pay the money to play, your child should get some playing time.”