Grassroots political group focuses on fields, family

On some days, these fields are a beautiful mess.

On one end, high school football players run through drills while, on the other side, youth football players put on their gear and warm up. On any given fall weekday, soccer players or flag football players are wedged in between. Meanwhile, other soccer teams scrounge for empty fields nearby, fields without nets to shoot at.

On Saturdays, several dozen soccer players wait patiently while high school football players finish up a weekend practice.

And in the spring, youth softball coaches scramble for empty fields to practice, relegating players to drills; since the one youth softball field in Sequim is being used, coaches can't simulate real games without a real infield to handle ground balls or bases to run to.

In Sequim, the youth sports scene is big - maybe too big.

"They are tripping over themselves," said Craig Stevenson, a local coach who's spearheading an effort to solve these crowding issues.

Enter Sequim Family Advocates, a grassroots political group whose first goal is helping local youths get access to local fields.

The group asked Sequim's City Council on Monday night to consider letting youths use some of the city's Water Reuse Demonstration Site acreage for activity fields.

Stevenson said the city's softball fields at Carrie Blake Park, used each week by a senior softball group, are too big for conventional youth softball games or practices. However, the fields are of great value to soccer teams, Stevenson said, noting that the outfields for each ball field can be home to four U-8 or U-10 soccer games.

Stevenson and his wife, Rebecca, moved to Sequim in 1993 and have three children in Sequim schools, in grades three, six and eight. Stevenson said he got into coaching - at the time, youth softball - to have some set time with his children.

In recent months, he's taken to soccer coaching while Rebecca started the newly-founded Sequim NFL Flag league.

What impressed Stevenson about Sequim youth programs is that, despite their need for help with growth and maintenance, few organizers know how to get it.

"These people aren't political; these families are used to 'getting by,'" Stevenson said. "They don't understand the politics. They've gone as far as they can on their own. We support them or they go backwards in a hurry; I don't want to see that."

Frustrated, Stevenson sent out an e-mail about three weeks ago seeking some ideas to solve what he calls a crisis.

"I got overwhelmed with the number of responses," Stevenson said, most of them revolving around wanting better opportunities for their children.

The problem with overcrowded fields, Stevenson said, is not only an opportunity issue, but also a safety issue. Without learning proper game skills, he said, players learn how to play a sport during games.

"This is our launching point," Stevenson said. "Our needs will continue to grow. I'd hate to see kids drop out of these programs if we didn't support them. I'm a glass-half-full guy. This town will rally."

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