OPC Youth Programs empower voices of youth

Three little girls run after the soccer ball during an OPC soccer game. Different OPC sports run throughout the whole year.

Courtesy of John Davis

Three little girls run after the soccer ball during an OPC soccer game. Different OPC sports run throughout the whole year.

Rosie Frugé, Staff Writer

All during the year in Oxford, MS, hundreds of children partake in youth programs through the Oxford Park Commission. Director Seth Gaines is in charge of keeping it all running smoothly.

”We have all types of youth programs,” Gaines said. “We have sports programs, recreational programs, outdoor programs and more. These are things that kids or adults and all can be a part of. Of course, youth soccer, baseball, softball, flag football, hopefully volleyball pretty soon and outdoor programs, we just had a hike last week to Strawberry Plains. We have a canoe trip coming up. All sorts of things like gymnastics and dance programs; if you can imagine it, we will try it.”

According to Gaines, the different programs that they provide help develop many skills that will help them as they grow up; the most important is the social skills.

“I mean, I will go back to what I loved the most, and what I enjoyed the most growing up,” Gaines said. “I enjoyed competing, whether or not I’m good enough to win or whether I wasn’t good enough to win that day. I like the drive and determination of trying to be the best. You aren’t always the best, and that is okay. I also like that there is a social aspect of it. You can just have a good time with your friends.”

There are many things that go into the youth programs, but the adults play a large role in every type of program.

“It’s a little game that the kids play, but really it is what it is, it is what the kids do, they follow the leader,” Gaines said. “They are learning how their parents react, their coaches react, and it is all learned behaviors, and from that, that’s exactly how they become who they are.”

Only good can come out of building these relationships within the programs with adults and other kids according to Gaines.

“All of these programs are teaching kids to grow up and how to be a good person,” Gaines said. “I can’t tell you exactly how other programs work, but I do think youth sports prepares people, and you have to learn how to fail. If you don’t learn how to fail, if everything is always wonderful for you, then you never learn to cope with disappointment, or failure.”

Community Relations Director John Davis believes that it makes for a well-rounded life for the youth.

“A great youth program, a great recreational program, improves quality of life,” Davis said. “If you have great quality of life, you have growth.”

As the community has grown, so has OPC, and they must be doing something right according to Davis.

“I think they touch the lives in a very positive manner,” Davis said. “It impacts them, and their families. That’s why we’ve seen our numbers grow. Others want to take part because they had such a positive experience. ”

People like OPC board member Allison Koestler believe that the youth programs are good about keeping kids safe and in good hands.

“I think that keeping kids active in OPC programs keeps them off the streets and out of trouble, which is good for the community,” Koestler said. “I also think that kids who participate in OPC programs gain confidence, self-discipline, teamwork, conflict resolution and other life skills that will make them productive adults who will make positive contributions to society.”

According to Davis, the programs really impact the community beyond words can tell, and there is no other way to tell the story of Oxford without the youth and OPC.

“The kids in the community gain athleticism, but beyond physical fitness, they gain friends, experiences and memories that will aid their development,” Davis said. “Sports are unifying. It rounds us out and in the case of children in elementary school, our sports programs help form a positive growth standpoint with the kids and community.”