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Sumter County Parks and Recreation providing healthy sporting activities for kids this Spring

AMERICUS – All of the great US college and professional athletes, whether it be LeBron James, Matt Ryan, Freddy Freeman, or local kids who mad it big like Leonard Pope and Tyler Clark, all start playing sports for the love of the game.

At the recreation level, sports are played for fun, enjoyment and learning of the sport. The Sumter County Parks & Recreation department provides this opportunity year-round for kids, and the Spring sports such as baseball and track and Field are getting ready to gear up for the Spring and Summer months. Tim Estes heads up the Sumter County Parks and Recreation department. “The Spring sports that we offer here are baseball for kids ages 5-12, and youth track for ages 7-14”, Estes said. “We’ve got registration going right now for both of those. That goes through March 2. Track is $30 to be a part of. Baseball is $65 to be a part of.”

During the Spring, every kid who registers can be a part of the fun at the local level. “They compete locally to start with”, Estes said. “Once we have our local season, many of them, many of them will be picked for the All-Star teams, and then our All-Star teams then go and represent us on the district level. That will carry us from March all the way to the end of the school year. The All-Star program then starts up and goes throughout the Summer.”

Sumter County Youth Baseball is not affiliated with Little League, which is familiar with many who follow youth baseball. “We play with the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association (GRPA)”, Estes said. “Basically, what that means is all of the parks and rec departments throughout the state of Georgia are divided into seven districts. We’re in District 3, which covers all of Southwest Georgia. We’ll compete on that level first. Then if you win that, you go on and compete in the state level. We do 5-12 with baseball because that’s what the state does. In track, they don’t allow five and six-year-olds to compete, so they start at seven and go through 14.”

Jeff Fussell heads up the youth baseball program at the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department. “we’re going through the registration process now”, Fussell said. “Our season will start sometime around the first of April and it will run to probably about May 20, somewhere around in there. That will end our rec season. Our All-Star season will start sometime around the first of June and it will run to about the middle of July.”

As far as swimming is concerned, the pools are only open in the Summer. “The pools are only opened in June and July”, Estes said. “As far as swimming lessons, we have a partnership with the Americus Blue Tide. We’ll do the registrations for swim lessons here, and the Blue Tide actually does the instructing of those lessons at the pool at Georgia Southwestern State University.” Estes went on to say that competitive swimming is all done through the Americus Blue Tide.

Of course, sports aren’t just played in the Spring. They’re played year-round, with football, soccer and cheerleading in Fall and basketball in the Winter. “We register for football in about mid-July through mid-August”, Estes said. “The games start in September. We’ll have football, soccer and cheerleading as our Fall sports for kids ages 5-12.”

Right now, basketball is still going on. Estes went on to say that they’ve finished up the local youth basketball seasons, and that the All-Star teams are now competing. They are the Sumter County All-Stars. They are practicing now and are competing in district tournaments this week. “Two teams will be playing in Tifton and two in Thomasville”, Estes said. “The seven and eight-year-old and 11-12-year-old boys are in Thomasville. Our 9-10-year-old boys and 9-11-year-old girls will be competing in Tifton.” The competition starts Wednesday, February 21 through Saturday, February 24. According to Estes, the games in Thomasville will be at the Thomasville YMCA and the games in Tifton will be at the Tift County Recreational Department gymnasium. Estes also said that the earliest kids can be involved in the All-Star competition is at age seven.

Dwight Harris heads up the youth track and field program at the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department. He is also in charge of football and basketball, as well as the Summer Day Camp program. As far as the track program is concerned, we try to get as many kids in the community involved”, Harris said. “We practice every day pretty much, then we have our district in Thomasville. Those kids that qualify will go to state. The state meet was in Carrollton last year.” With track and field, Harris emphasizes that it’s pretty much about one thing: hard work, but he believes in putting a child in an event that he or she is most comfortable with and has the best chance of succeeding. “Everybody wants their child to run the 100-yard dash, but we try to put kids in the right position”, Harris said. “They might be quick and can do it better in the 50-yard dash. We try to put them in the right position.

The Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department also has a Summer Day Camp for kids, and Harris is in charge of it. “In the Summer Day Camp, we’ll be starting back up again. We’re looking for the best volunteers to help out with the kids. We hope it works out well. At one time, we didn’t have a lot of kids attend, now we hope we have more folks.” The camp runs for six weeks during the Summer, but the camp takes a week off during the fourth of July week. According to Harris, there are at least 300 kids participating in track and field district-wide, which covers all of Southwest Georgia.

There are a lot of opportunities for kids in Sumter County to have a wonderful, fun experience participating in the baseball and track and field programs of the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department. Registration is on-going, and will go through March 2.