° empty

Youth sports is springboard for prep stars

With prep sports on hold for the summer, the focal point of Miss-Lou athletics shifts to the various youth leagues around the area.
And the coaches of the prep teams have to be happy about that.
Whether it’s T.M. Jennings baseball, Natchez or Vidalia Dixie Youth, travel team baseball, Natchez Falcons football or any of the local youth softball leagues (and likely many more I’m forgetting), there’s no shortage of options. And if children are serious about their future in a certain sport or sports, whether or not to be involved in at least one youth league isn’t an option, period.
It’s not just that children are getting “something to do that will keep them out of trouble” — I hear that one from adults quite a bit — it’s that the children are learning important skills in their respective sports at the right age.
This can only help the local middle and high school teams later on down the road, because coaches can feel secure that their players already have some grasp of the basics. No, you can never go over fundamentals too many times, but players should be at least somewhat familiar with fundamentals by the time they’re in high school. If they’re not, that player is already at a huge disadvantage.
For example, let’s take Miranda Smith, who was a part of Vidalia High School’s 2003 LHSAA Class 2A state title. When she was younger, Smith was a member of Rut Horne’s Dixie Debs youth softball team, where Horne was able to mold Smith into a top-notch pitcher. Thanks to her experience in youth softball, Smith was able to take what she learned and carry it with her through a state championship run.
That’s just one of many examples in which a young athlete put in time during the summer that carried over into his or her prep career. It’s why Cathedral soccer coach Rick Simons expressed to me this past spring the importance of Natchez developing a strong youth soccer presence.
The Cathedral soccer coaches are some of the best in the area, but Simons told me a recreational soccer league that would allow soccer players to play in the spring, summer and fall was necessary. That way, the next time Cathedral makes it to the postseason in soccer, they won’t be at a competitive disadvantage against teams from areas that do have those recreational leagues.
I applaud the efforts of Donovan Silva and others for their work with the Natchez Youth Soccer Organization. Their work is required if the Miss-Lou can begin to excel at soccer the way it does most other sports.
I only hope soccer won’t be left behind when recreation plans in Natchez start getting put into action. (If they do indeed ever get put into action.)
The Miss-Lou has seen its fair share of playoff runs in football, basketball and baseball in recent years. The role of local youth leagues developing those athletes cannot be overlooked.

MICHAEL KEREKES is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or at michael.kerekes@natchezdemocrat.com.