The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

Extra Sports for 2016 !

Extra Sports Income for 2016 !

pickleball

    By: Tom Burkhart – who is an ambassador for pickleball.

   The retired physical education teacher volunteers his time traveling around the world promoting the sport he learned about
by accident when he was teaching at Baker Middle School in 1980.

   “I found this box that was stored away and it had some equipment and a net, and I read the instructions for something called ‘pickleball’ and I introduced it to the kids,” said Burkhart, who lives in Baton Rouge. “They played it and had a blast, so we put it into our curriculum back then. We developed a whole (teaching) unit for pickleball.”

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   Burkhart spoke at a clinic for pickleball players at the West Feliciana Sports Park on Feb. 20, which drew between 25 to 30 enthusiasts of various skill levels from as far away as Lafayette, Alexandria and Gonzales. The clinic was organized by Pat Heurtin, herself a retired P.E. teacher who taught at Baker High School at the same time Burkhart was at Baker Middle.

   Pickleball combines elements of tennis, pingpong, racquetball and badminton and is played with a ball similar to a whiffle ball. It’s played on a court slightly smaller than a tennis court for singles or doubles competitors.

   “It’s relatively inexpensive to get into and is competitive with a social aspect to it,” said Burkhart, who is Mid-South regional director for the United States of America Pickleball Association, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

   According to the association’s website, there are more than 13,000 pickleball courts nationwide and more than 2.5 million players. Tournaments are played all over, and the website’s “Places to Play” lists all the various venues and tournaments.

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   The sport is beginning to gain in popularity in foreign countries as well, and Burkhart has traveled to destinations overseas promoting it, such as the Dominican Republic.

   When he’s not conducting clinics in the region, he plays competitively. He said the sport is popular among seniors because it’s easier on the muscle joints. The goal, however, is to attract more younger players.

   “It’s a great sport and it’s a fun way to meet people, stay fit and enjoy life,” Burkhart said.

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Sports Park construction in east El Paso to finish in May !

Sports Park construction in east El Paso to finish in May !

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EL PASO, Texas – After nearly four years and millions of dollars in renovations, El Paso County’s Sports Park is ready for players to take the field.

   County officials said the park is open for games and just in time for T-ball season that starts at the end of the month, but there’s still a chunk of work to be done before its deadline in May.

   “The concession area, the canopy, the sidewalks and some of the other fields, that work is still on-going,” said Pat Aduato, the county public works director. “It’s ready for T-ball season, but we are on track for the project to be done for its deadline in May, maybe even sooner than that.”

   Aduato said the budget for the project is $2.3 million, but as of now the county is slightly under budget. Aduato was not able to give KFOX14 the exact number of how much the county is under budget.

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   “As a taxpayer, I’m very happy that our money is going to go where it should have been going in the first place,” said Gabe Dominguez, an assistant coach for Team Boom a coaches-pitch team. “And they’re coming in under budget, it’s just nice to know that it’s all going to be done soon so everyone can enjoy these fields.”

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Common Groundskeeping Mistakes !

Common Groundskeeping Mistakes !

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By Beacon Ballfields · Paul Zwaska

Coaches and volunteers, God love ’em. The games of baseball and softball usually can’t go on without these dedicated people who are there to either teach or just help out. Most are genuinely trying hard to do the right thing; others are just there to fill a void. It is no wonder that sports field managers cringe when they find out that the coaches and volunteers worked together to get a game in after a rain event. Instead of throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever it takes to get your game in, consider the consequences to the quality of the field surface, those who must fix it, and the other teams that are affected by your actions.

Let’s look at some of the most common groundskeeping mistakes committed by those with good intentions, but still create undesirable results:

Pushing standing water off an infield skin surface with a broom or roller squeegee.

Undesirable ResultInfield soil and topdressing are picked up along with the water and pushed off into the lip. This ends up building the lip higher, creating a natural dam, and also making the low spot, where the water collected, lower due to infield material being pushed out along with the water.

CORRECT ACTION: Use a Puddle Pump or Beacon Puddle Sponges to suck up and remove excess freestanding water in the low spots.

Using excessive amounts of drying agent.

Undesirable ResultThe only thing this does is waste large dollar amounts of drying agent to get games played. Excess drying agent remains on the field afterward, which can increase the speed of the field drying, but it can also help store more water at the surface in a rain event as the calcined clay drying agent gorges itself with water. This may actually slow the drying process if too much is sitting on the surface. On a field without a water source, you can actually suffer from the field getting too dry and hard as the calcined clay sucks every bit of moisture out of the infield skin.

CORRECT ACTION: If you walk on an infield and it is soft enough that your feet sink, it is too soft to play on. Incredible amounts of damage can occur on a ballfield when it is played on when the infield skin is too soft. Let Mother Nature do her evaporative magic first. Once the field is stable enough to walk on, then you can work to dry the low spots by removing the freestanding water first. Only then should you use drying agent to finish the drying process and it will take much less material to do so

Dragging an infield without removing the bases and pulling the drag right over the top of them.

Undesirable ResultInfield soil builds up around the bases slowly burying them and making them harder to remove. This also destroys the consistency of the surface grade across the infield. This is just plain lazy.

CORRECT ACTION: Remove the bases and place in dugouts. Install base plugs in base anchors before dragging infield. Cut down any high areas under or around bases with an iron rake or aluminum field rake.

Dragging infield material into the turf edges.

Undesirable Result: When dragging the infield, if the drag wanders onto the turf edges, it deposits infield soil and topdressing into the turf edges which is then glued in by rainfall and irrigation cycles, unless cleaned out fairly soon afterwards. As this material builds up in the turf, it creates a lip which becomes a natural dam impeding the free flow of rainfall off the playing surface.

CORRECT ACTION: Stay a minimum of 6 inches away from the edge of the infield skin where it meets the turf. This will help to reduce the incidence of lip build-up. Additionally, use a push broom, leaf rake, backpack blower, yard vacuum or power broom to pull loose material out of the turf edges after you drag the skin area

Packing dry mound spoils back into the wear holes on the mound slope.

Undesirable ResultThis is basically wasted effort, pure and simple. Water and clay are the glue that bind a soil together. Without those, no binding will take place, no matter how hard you pulverize and pound the old clay that has been kicked out of the wear areas. Additionally, if you pull the old clay laying on the surface of the mound back into place, it undoubtedly has also been contaminated with other materials, like topdressing or infield soil, which drastically reduce the binding power of the used material.

CORRECT ACTION: The only way to patch a clay area that produces an effectively sturdy and stable patch is by using fresh new clay and water. The process is as follows:

  1. Sweep all loose material away from the wear holes.
  2. Use water to adequately moisten the sides and bottom of the holes. Allow some time for the water to absorb into the established clay.
  3. Add fresh clean clay to the wear areas and tamp into place. Level as needed.
  4. Sprinkle some water over the entire surface of the patch.
  5. Pull old topdressing and other material back over patch and finish groom.

Not tarping the clay areas on the mound and home plate at the end of the day if tarps are available.

Undesirable Result: The clay areas are left open to the atmosphere where evaporation will pull the moisture out of the mound and batter’s box clay. Without the moisture in the clay, it fractures and chunks out of those areas very easily, drastically reducing its effectiveness of providing proper footing for a pitcher or hitter.

CORRECT ACTION: If area tarps are available, place the mound and plate tarps on whenever you finish a game or practice and no one else is around to use the field. It is always important to minimize evaporation on the clay whenever possible. BONUS: If water is available, add some water to the clay areas on the mound and batter’s box to replace what Mother Nature evaporated during the time you were using the field. Just don’t overdo it.

Give Your Coaches and Volunteers Training

To avoid these common groundskeeping mistakes, the bottom line is that coaches and volunteers should only perform minimal work on a field unless they have received more extensive training from the organization that maintains the ball fields they are playing on. A good source for basic game day groundskeeping skills can be acquired by visiting Beacon Athletics for the online Groundskeeper University 100 level courses. The 8 modules in the 100 level cover the basics of ball field maintenance for game day and are geared for coaches, volunteers, summer help or new grounds employees. Check it out at www.groundskeeperu.com.

Sports Field Managers have a tough and challenging job to do, especially at schools and park and recs where their time is limited for working on each field they manage. I’ve never met a sports field manager who didn’t have incredible pride in the work they do, no matter the situation handed to them. Let’s hope that coaches and volunteers respect what these field managers do in order for the rest of us to play our games, both competitive and recreational.

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5 Elements of Good Officiating !

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5 Elements of Good Officiating !

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Navigating conflict resolution in sports

It may seem ironic to have a discussion on conflict resolution in sports when sports are by their nature all about opposition. But sports officials deal with different types of conflict in the course of their duties, most frequently with coaches.  

A coach’s goal is to win. An official’s goal is to mediate fair play. These two goals often result in conflict, especially if a coach’s attitude is to win at all costs. So it’s not surprising that differences of opinion sometimes result in tempers flaring, harsh words being exchanged, and even physical altercations. But officials can approach these conflicts using the following approaches to effectively minimize or resolve clashes.

  1. Professionalism: Presenting yourself as a professional includes your physical appearance and knowledge of the game. Arriving to the event early in a clean uniform is the first step in making a good impression and gaining respect. Knowing the rules is paramount. Officials can be excused for missing a call, but not for misinterpreting or misstating the rules. Coaches, players and spectators know when an official is prepared and working hard on the playing field.
  2. Approachability: While officials are the authority figure, players and coaches need them to be approachable when conflicts arise. Discussions should not be taking place over every call, but valid questions should be allowed to be voiced respectfully, which usually defuses tensions. Coaches who dispute a call typically just want to be heard, since reversals are rare. When agreements can’t be reached, the goal should be to at least agree to disagree so play can resume peacefully. A coach’s perspective of the issue is usually different from an official’s. It can be helpful to listen and let him or her know you understand their point of view, but are guided by the rules (see point 1) and that there are channels for lodging official complaints after the game.
  3. Communication: Approximately 55 percent of the information we communicate is transmitted Sports official insurancenon-verbally, which means we use facial expressions, eye contact, gestures and posture.  A fuming coach may not be saying much, but his or her body language is speaking volumes. Officials should be paying attention to the non-verbal messages being relayed by players and coaches before they boil over and become verbally abusive or even physical in nature. Listen with your ears and your eyes.
  4. Emotional control: Conflicts often result in emotional responses that can even draw in people not directly involved in the issue, such as players and spectators. You can’t control how these people will respond to a situation, but you can control your own response. The responsibility of the official is to calmly settle confrontations, not become embroiled in them. This can be difficult when the official is the target of anger and blame. But counting to 10 before responding can go a long way in keeping things from escalating. Barking orders for coaches to calm down or get off the field or deflecting blame onto a fellow referee (“I didn’t make the call.”) erodes everyone’s respect for your authority and only serves to inflame an already tense situation.
  5. Humor: Poking fun at yourself or the general situation can be an excellent way to break up tension and win people over. It might not resolve the actual issue, but humor is is a universal stress reliever. This doesn’t mean laughing at the coaches or making light of a valid conflict, but laughing with the coaches put you on a level playing field and shows that everyone is doing their best in his or her role.

   Many of the tense situations referenced above should never occur in the youth or school sports context if coaches and parents follow the various codes of conduct that are published by governing and sanctioning bodies and similar organizations. Also, the suggested techniques can help to diffuse situations before they boil over. However, the reality is that heated disputes often occur in the sports context. A quick study of the loss runs of our sports insurance clients indicate too many fights and resulting serious injuries and lawsuits between officials and coaches or spectators. The alleged aggressor can either be the official or the coach or spectator.

   If the alleged aggressor is the official, such official will likely be seeking General Liability and possibly Accident protection through membership in a national association or coverage for officials under the local league policy. Claims may be unexpectedly denied by the General Liability carrier if the Assault & Battery exclusion is present on the policy. For that reason, we recommend that this exclusion be removed.

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What does the future hold for O’Fallon Family Sports Park ?

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O’Fallon, IL – What the standard is now won’t be the standard years from now, according to Mary Jeanne Hutchison, director of O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department, which is why a comprehensive plan for a Sports Park Village at O’Fallon Family Sports Park is needed. 

   O’Fallon City Council members approved a consulting agreement with Kansas City-based Game On Sports, a sports park development company, at its meeting Monday night. Game On Sports will conduct the plan at a cost of $17,500. Game On Sports and its strategic partners are interested in developing a tournament destination village located at or near the Family Sports Park. 

   “What they will do is develop a list of partners or possible partnerships or people who are interested in renting and investing in that site, our site,” Hutchison said during the council meeting Monday night. “They will put a whole…business plan together.” 

   She said the plan will be used “down the road” to develop those fields into artificial fields. “What we did 10 years ago is not going to be the same as what we will need five years from now to attract those tournaments and keep tournaments we already have and provide those fields for our own kids,” Hutchison said. “It’s becoming standard to play on the artificial fields. This is a way to look at that without hopefully utilizing any taxpayer money so we are partnering with this development plan to look at the possible partnerships.”

    According to the agreement, Game On Sports will provide the following: 

▪  A comprehensive plan for a sports village concept within both the existing O’Fallon Sports Park and O’Fallon’s 80-acre tract of land adjacent to the park.

▪  A list of likely users of the sports village concept

▪  A list of operators for the operations of the various attractions

▪  Concept drawings, business plan and deal structure, funding sources, potential strategic partners, estimated design-build construction costs and operations of the sports village concept

   Public-private partnerships would develop the sports village for lease to Global Sports Inc. for an agreed amount of weekend tournaments, according to paperwork filed with the city. 

   The city of Belleville is currently working with Game On Sports Development to build a sports complex with 11 soccer fields and a restaurant off Illinois 15 near the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. The complex has an estimated value of more than $10 million.

   O’Fallon council members also approved moving forward with construction of the Milburn School Road sidewalk and pedestrian bridge project. The project, which cost $391,290, is currently slated for construction this summer. 

   Jeff Taylor, director of public works for the city, said O’Fallon’s cost is about $78,000 or 20 percent of the project. The remaining $313,000 is covered by a federal grant that’s administered through the Illinois Department of Transportation. The grant is through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. 

   O’Fallon City Administrator Walter Denton said the bidding for the project is done by IDOT. 

   City council members also approved an Illinois Department of Transportation Construction Engineering Services agreement with Rhutasel and Associates for the Milburn School Road sidewalk and pedestrian bridge project at a cost of $34,500. The agreement with Rhutasel & Associates, Inc. is for construction staking and material testing required by IDOT. 

   The pedestrian bridge will go from Pausch Road to Red Hawk Ridge over Ogles Creek, according to Taylor. 

   “It will provide a continuous pedestrian way from Simmons Road to the high school,” Taylor said. “It will fill a gap for those folks in the area.”

   He said the hope is to have the bridge constructed before the start of next school year and in conjunction with the Milburn School Road roundabout project.

   In other business, the city council approved the following resolutions: 

▪  An agreement with Korte and Luitjohan Contractors, Inc. for the Union Hill water main extension in an amount of $366,035. The project is to extend and improve water service to the Union Hill area in unincorporated Fairview Heights.

▪  Agreements with Horner and Shifrin for the design of the Green Mount Road water main relocation in an amount $16,000. The existing water main on the west side of Green Mount Road between U.S. 50 and Cambridge Boulevard is in need of relocation to avoid conflicts with the Green Mount Road widening project.

   The council also had a first reading for the planned use development of Skyline Community Church. Dennis Wagner with the church filed an application requesting a planned use for land at 870 Milburn School Road, zoned single family residential, for construction of a 17,386-square-foot, one-story church. The proposed church has a large auditorium with seating for approximately 400 people and nine classrooms. 

   Skyline Community Church began in September 2003 and has been meeting at the Smiley Campus of O’Fallon Township High School since then, according to a letter from Lead Pastor Lance Johnson, which was submitted to the city as part of the application. 

   The next city council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 15.

[ Jamie Forsythe: contributor ]

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