Some of the best high school sports teams have something very similar in common, and that’s a strong feeder program. If you look at the powerhouses around the state and even into other states, you’ll notice all of them have good youth programs and usually the high school coaches are involved in those somehow.

The past two weeks of The Outlook sports pages have featured a whole lot of great youth sports coverage, and that’s incredibly encouraging to see.

I’ll start with the free youth sports camp in Dadeville. Each week, Inside the Lines Podcast co-host Caleb Turrentine and I start out with talking about the best thing we’ve seen this week, and that sports camp was easily the best thing I got to witness this week.

Now in its third year, that camp has grown to accommodate so many kids. I was blown away when I walked up to take photos Tuesday night, and there were several lines of 10 or more kids waiting to take their turn at a simple running drill. Although the activities didn’t scream “child entertainment” — they were mostly doing running and agility drills — the kids seemed to be having the time of their lives.

And coach Michael Taylor, who works with the Dadeville High School teams and set up this camp, has a heart of gold. He gives his time freely and with no expectation to help youngsters in the area two nights a week throughout the entire summer. He takes the time to set up activities that will teach the kids lessons but also let them have some fun.

Taylor has given so much of himself to the betterment of young athletes in the area, and it’s amazing to see. He’s also made it clear the camp is open to anyone — any age, any gender, any town; he just wants to help.

The other big portion of our youth coverage lately has been that of the youth softball and baseball teams in the area, which are doing exceptionally well. Alexander City’s 6U, 8U and 10U all-star softball teams all headed to the state championships in Millbrook today as did New Site’s 10U girls. Even Reeltown had a team represented at state today.

Alex City’s 10U baseball team competed in its state championship recently, and Dadeville’s 7- and 8-year-old squad just earned a district title earlier this week.

It’s incredibly exciting to see these boys and girls accomplish stuff like this. Not only is it amazing to see the smiles on their faces and the pride of their parents when they come in to buy the paper, but you’ve also got to remember these are future Wildcats, Generals and Tigers in the making. In just a few short years, these same kids will be donning Benjamin Russell, Horseshoe Bend and Dadeville jerseys on the high school level, and they’re certainly proving the future is bright for Tallapoosa County.

The more these kids get a taste of winning at a young age, the more likely they’re going to stick with their sport or sports of choice and continue to bring that success to our communities. We need more people like Michael Taylor, who are willing to give their time and energy to help grow these future athletes. And really, they’re not just future athletes; they are our future generation of movers and shakers.

It’s important to invest all the time we can into these youngsters not just so they can bring success to the athletic programs in the area but so they can have successful lives in general. It’s encouraging to see just how far they’ve come already.

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