A big high-five

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A good youth sports organization offers its participants many benefits — from improved physical condition to sharper mental focus to a better ability to work and play well with others. Such an organization can be a boon to its community and an important partner, together with engaged and discerning parents, in bringing children up well.

Suffolk’s Department of Parks and Recreation has received recognition for operating just such an organization in its Lil Sports Program, which has been named by the National Association of Youth Sports as having one of the top five youth sports programs in the nation for children ages 4 and 5.

The program currently includes basketball, cheering and soccer components, and participation has taken off during the past year. Hard work by a group of more than 100 volunteers and staff helped Lil Dribblers grow from 18 participants in 2013 to 48 in 2014, and Lil Pom-Poms went from six to 18. The new Lil Kickers featured 19 soccer players.

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The children are taught basic skills, sportsmanship and how to have good attitudes on and off the court. They’re taught to enjoy winning but not to pursue it without regard for others. They’re taught to learn from mistakes and accept defeat magnanimously. And they’re taught to show grace in both victory and defeat.

And all this takes place with children as young as 4 years old. That’s earlier than most similar programs around the country, and organizers in Suffolk believe it’s one of the factors that contributed to the city’s top-five honor.

Sports skills are not the only skills that improve with practice. Sportsmanship, active lifestyles and social skills are all things that early reinforcement can help take root in a person’s life. So helping 4-year-olds learn those skills is a smart idea.

The volunteers and staff members for the Lil Sports Program deserve a big high-five for their efforts to help these youngsters.