So, what do we do?
There are definitely problems within the Lawton Parks and Recreation Department's youth sports programs, that is something that many of those closest to the issue agree is indeed the case.
Those problems are the result of many factors, including diminished funds which sliced two workers from the budget of the City of Lawton's Sports/Aquatics Division in 2010 and continued cuts in subsequent years.
However, there are still some things that could be done to improve the program without additional funding, they would just take a phone call or two to help with marketing and 10 minutes with a rake before a city championship baseball or softball game
But, as we've seen often in recent years, the very staffers running the programs failed to show during playoff events to make such minor adjustments on the field of play and those are the issues that after years of neglect the City of Lawton officials seem to realize something needs to be done to improve the situation.
So, just how can we improve our youth sports programs and get more kids involved?
While this writer is not as close to the situation as those on the Parks and Recreation Sports Commission, the coaches and those on the Sports/Aquatics staff, I have been around the block a few times and seen the program both back in the "good old days" and recently as I explained above.
Back in the early 1970s I served as Peewee baseball coach at Jackson School. David Tyler, another loyal youth sports fan and the founder of Lawton High's softball complex, was my assistant and we somehow managed to compile a 13-1 record. Our hearts were ripped out when Ty Powell, Mark Mitchell and the Eisenhower Generals beat us 3-2 for the city title.
In those days the numbers were great, both with players and money for the maintenance of the fields. I think there were eight teams in our league and 24 total Peewee baseball teams that year.
Now there aren't enough teams to hardly form one league inside a division.
I keep hearing the same excuse, that kids are couch potatoes and don't want to work on anything that requires spending time in the heat.
Why then do I see kids riding their skateboards in 100-degree weather, or playing pickup basketball at the school in the same weather conditions?
And why is the Lawton Soccer Club drawing 1,200 to 1,500 each season?
Maybe we're just not searching in the right places, nor are we giving the right incentives to those who should be doing the searching.
We have to address the issue lest we let more kids fall through the cracks. This writer can count no less than 10 former athletes from all three city high school schools who have been on the front page of this newspaper in recent months accused of committing violent crimes on society.