More is better: Blue Valley, Kan

More is better: Blue Valley, Kan

Kevin Beck

In the mid 1980s, southern Johnson County, Kan., which is part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, suffered from a shortage of recreation opportunities for its children, mostly because of a lack of facilities. In response, the Blue Valley Recreation Commission (BVRC) was formed, and all that changed. Today, the BVRC–the largest recreation commission in Kansas–oversees hundreds of events at the BVRC Activity Center and Recreation Complex, at facilities owned and operated by the Blue Valley School District, and at fields within the boundaries of Overland Park (population 163,000).

The BVRC primarily focuses on youth-oriented activities; its philosophy is “never turn a child away from team play.” Many programs, however, such as golf and martial arts, are open to both youth and adult participants; in addition, the BVRC has also partnered with Johnson County Parks and Recreation District to offer programs to citizens age 50 and over. Last year, the BVRC had nearly 23,000 participants in its sports programs, including large numbers of youth participants in baseball (3,300) softball (1,500) and basketball (3,000).

Traditionally, the BVRC has emphasized participation over competition, and lists sportsmanship as the top priority of all its sports programs. Recently, however, it has responded to requests to provide more competition-oriented programs for kids who have reached a certain age or ability level. The parent of each participant in BVRC sports must sign a youth sports code of ethics that includes a commitment to placing the physical and emotional well-being of children ahead of a desire to win, encouraging children to treat players on opposing teams with respect, refraining from the use of drugs (including tobacco) and alcohol at youth events, and other elements.

Safety is also a priority–the BVRC has incorporated heat guidelines, the use of up-to-date weather monitoring equipment and other measures designed to ensure the well-being of participants. As of April 2003, all full-time staff stationed at or around programs are trained and certified in CPR/AED; continual training and recertification help ensure that staff members are prepared to handle any situations that might occur. Participants are given the most up-to-date safety equipment available in all disciplines.

No one registering on time is denied the right to participate in BVRC programs. Special-needs participants are given the chance to take part in programs such as the Special Olympics, and many programs feature players with visual or bearing impairments. Also, specific minimum-playing regulations ensure that no one sits out a contest, or even a significant portion thereof.

The expansion of available facilities has been one of the region’s transforming events over the past two decades. The 16,228-square-foot Activity Center contains several class/meeting rooms, a dance studio, an expansive gymnastics area, a playroom and offices for stale The Recreation Complex is a 120-acre parcel that contains 23 baseball/softball fields, batting cages, a sand volleyball pit, concession buildings, restrooms, a maintenance building and paved parking. Other amenities include picnic areas with shelters, a playground and walking trails.

All youth sports coaches are volunteers. To ensure high standards, the BVRC routinely performs background checks on applicants who, once approved, are required to attend the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) training/certification program. The NYSCA training focuses on the proper teaching of sportsmanship, conditioning, nutrition and sport-specific techniques. To supplement this training, the BVRC requires coaches to attend a rules and sportsmanship meeting, and also encourages them to attend a coaching clinic offered by BVRC staff for a low fee of $15 per coach. Officials are held to the same high standards–all are required to attend training sessions specific to his or her program, and all receive sport-specific training and supervision.

From the participant’s standpoint, the BVRC provides numerous activities for youth to improve their skill development, offering youth camps and clinics for baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, volleyball, golf and soccer. The BVRC gymnastics program, available to children aged 20 months to 15 years, is designed to help youth participants develop better balance, coordination and motor skills, and to increase their flexibility, strength and self-confidence.

Looking to the future, the BVRC has entered into discussions with another local parks and recreation agency to explore the possibility of a joint venture for construction of a multi-purpose facility. Given the prodigious level of community involvement and support for an organization committed to making every citizen’s life better through recreation opportunities, it’s easy to foresee continued growth thanks to the efforts of this grassroots-oriented, high-aiming organization.

COPYRIGHT 2003 National Recreation and Park Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group