CRUZ BAY — The second weekend of October promises three days of team spirit, competition and fun on St. John as the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation hosts a Youth Sports Festival. Organizers say they plan to host two tournaments, a tennis clinic and showcase emerging boxers between Oct. 6 – 9.
Baseball, basketball, tennis and boxing contests will be scheduled around the 9th Annual Just Play event at the Winston Wells Ballpark, said SP&R program coordinator Ian Samuel. Just Play is a day long activity that teaches five skills any athlete needs to develop in order to pursue a chosen sport.
“This year we’re expanding to include a baseball round robin, basketball, tennis and boxing,” Samuel said. Athletes ages 15 and under are eligible to compete in the tournaments.
The announcement about the weekend sports festival came a few days after SP&R completed a summer basketball tournament held at the Orville Brown Basketball Court in Pine Peace. Word of the planned activity was greeted with enthusiasm by the director of the St. John Community Foundation.
SJCF has provided financial and logistical support for Just Play over the years. “I did not know that Sports, Parks and Rec was planning a festival of activities in which Just Play will be able to fit in, but I am sure if Ian is involved, it will be well done,” said SJCF Executive Director Celia Kalousek.
Just Play coordinator Dean Doeling said he was also pleased.
“This year we’re excited to be part of their weekend long event,” Doeling said. Speaking to stjohntradewinds.com from his home in Oregon, Doeling said it’s been rewarding to see the levels of youth participation in the annual skills event.
“It’s been heartwarming to see the kids growing up through the years, now halfway through, and then to see the older kids coming back to volunteer,” he said.
Open to youth ages 5 – 17, Just Play counselors lead participants through exercises like the 50 yard dash, basketball toss, soccer ball kick around traffic markers, soccer goal kick and football toss through a tire.
“The basic skills you need to pursue any sport,” Doeling said.
To prepare for the October sports fest, St. John SP&R officials are carrying out a small improvement project under the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget. Work is underway to improve fencing behind home plate at Wells ballpark.
The work includes rebuilding an announcer’s booth and bathrooms. Once the work is completed, Samuel said, children will not have to cross the road to use bathrooms at the recreation center.
Work is also getting ready to resume at Oppenheimer Beach. SP&R rececently received $31,000 to complete work on outdoor showers, roof repairs, painting and landscaping.