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Recreation dept. programs beneficial in many ways

Getting children involved in sports at an early age can be agreat asset to their careers in sports as they get older, accordingto Brookhaven Recreation Department officials.

“Especially the gymnastics and competitive cheer classes,” saidBRD Program Director Karen Harveston. “Those are usually yourfuture high school cheerleaders.”

But obviously, any time you get a child started learning thebasics of a sport when they’re young, it sets a strong foundationfor years to come, Harveston said. Programs such as flag footballand soccer for younger children can not only improve their skillsas athletes, but can also improve hand-eye coordination and overallwell-roundedness.

“In the flag football league we have, they learn the basics offootball, and you’ve even got girls out there playing,” Harvestonsaid. “If you’ve ever been a girl who didn’t really understand theconcepts of the game, then you know it’s hard to get sometimes ifyou didn’t play. These girls won’t have that problem.”

And soccer and gymnastics, while not as high profile ascheerleading and football, are excellent conditioning andstrengthening sports, Harveston said. Overall enrollment has goneup over the last year, in spite of officials’ fear that the economycould cause people to hold back their enrollment fees.

“Flag football and the soccer have both increased this year, Iwould have thought it would decrease with gas prices the way theyare,” Harveston said. “Of course, some programs did at first, butthey picked back up. I don’t think any of that has hurt us.”

Meanwhile, parents continue to keep their children involved forseveral reasons, Harveston said.

“They’re not out on the street, because they have something thatkeeps them busy,” she said. “When they get out of their schoolactivities, they have activities they can go to, then they can gohome and do their homework, and they’ve had a full day.”

Not just after-school sports, but after-school programs of manykinds can also benefit parents as much as they help keep childrenoccupied.

“They’re good babysitters, too, because a lot of parents get offat 5 and classes start before that, so they just set up a carpooland the kids can come to classes. Then when the parents get offwork, they can come pick them up here,” Harveston said. “You’ve gotthese carpools that bring them to gym and dance and things, becausesome mothers don’t work at all, and some do, so a carpool can bereally helpful.”

Harveston said the best thing about after school sports programsis that it helps children learn to interact with other childrenfrom outside their social groups.

“Just being with other people means a whole lot, like in thecase of children who home school and just look at their parents allday,” she said. “Finding activities for them with other childrencan help with socialization. Plus, there is so much enjoyment beingwith other kids from other schools and things.”

Harveston said whether children get involved with recreationdepartment activities or activities through other area dance andgymnastics studios or sports sponsored through the schools, it’ssimply getting children to interact with other children thatmatters.

For more information on recreation department activates forchildren from 18 months to 18 years, call (601) 833-3791.