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File / The Outlook Youth football teams help fuel more successful varsity programs in Tallapoosa County.

The dog days of summer are over, and it’s time to get back to work.

Not only should kids be studying hard in school but there are other ways for children to learn important life lessons. One of those ways is through youth sports. There are plenty of opportunities around Alexander City for youngsters to get involved in playing a sport. 

The Alexander City Parks and Recreation Department hosts a youth football and cheerleading league every year in the fall and also has baseball and softball in the spring. Through the parks and rec department, Cooper Rec Center also has a myriad of choices including basketball, girls volleyball and track and field.

“Everything to me is about No. 1, team building,” parks and rec director Sonny Wilson said. “You’ve got to learn to work with other people. We’re not going to always be the same, so we gotta work with people who aren’t like us.

“I think the biggest problem nowadays is kids stay on computer sand phones and they don’t get out and get around people and learn how to deal with people. Anybody that says anything that hurts their feelings, it’s the end of the world. But that’s not life. You’re going to get your feelings hurt just about every day. You gotta learn to deal with it and you can’t just give up.” 

Wilson said it’s important for the parks and rec department to offer a lot of choices so there’s something to do year round. He also stressed the importance of playing in multiple sports when you’re a youngster because you never know what you’re going to be good at.

With so many more kids coming from broken homes, having the influence of a coach can also teach more than just sports.

“You don’t ride through a neighborhood and see kids playing,” Wilson said. “How do we get them outside? The only way they’re going to do it is an organized sport; they’re not going out on their own. So many kids nowadays that are from a divorced family that sometimes this can be the only time they have that male influence in their lives that can make a difference in their youth.”

Not only does the parks and rec department offer a lot of choices, Alexander City’s youth soccer league has grown tenfold over the past few years. When vice president Adam Young got involved, typically about 100 kids were coming out; this year, he’s expecting more like 250 and they’re coming from all over the county and beyond.

“You see (soccer) a lot more in the news with coverage of the World Cup and stuff,” Young said. “And I just think we have good word of mouth and a lot of parents are wanting kids to try something different. Once a child comes, they’re hooked at that point.”

The ACYS league is open to anyone ages 3 through 13 and all the teams are co-ed.

Because so many players are starting so young, youth sports in the area are now really starting to serve as feeder programs for the varsity teams.

“We have kids like my own that started at 4 years old,” Young said. “By the time they hit middle school they’ll have eight to 10 years of experience. In the past, that might be their first year. (The varsity coaches at Benjamin Russell) have been in contact with us a lot on trying to work together and hopefully we get to that point of getting other schools in the county to have soccer teams.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.