Parks and Rec fosters sports experiences for island kids

by Jessica Stahl

Sounder contributor

Sunshine, green grass and bright scrimmage jerseys filled Buck Park the first week of May. Under a blue sky, the youth activities offered by Orcas Island Parks and Recreation were in full swing.

Parents lounged, smiling and visiting with each other on the sidelines, while kids sprinted up and down fields or checked in with their coaches.

At the south end of the park, youth softball coach Troy Oneal pulled sports equipment from his vehicle and readied for his team, the Viking Majors Girls, to begin their practice.

Fourteen middle school girls make up the team. Of them, seven are veteran players, returning for their fourth or fifth year playing together through Orcas Parks and Rec. The team also welcomed three brand-new players this year, plus four who have played elsewhere.

“The girls are like a sisterhood together. They support each other. They have fun, and they enjoy the game,” said Oneal, who is in his 11th year of coaching.

Between the team’s first practice in March and the season’s end on June 1, the girls have the chance to enjoy a total of 10 games, played as five doubleheaders. This season has one home game left, to be played at 10 a.m on June 1 at Buck Park. These games also give the greater Orcas Island community a chance to be involved through volunteering. At present, there is a need for umps for the baseball and softball teams.

According to the park and rec website, “Our Youth Athletes deeply rely on the devotion of our volunteers. Through participation in these programs, our island youth further develop strength in physical, social and psychological health while fostering meaningful connections with peers and other adults.”

Oneal’s team practices three afternoons a week, developing skills and preparing for game days.

“We have played most of our season against Friday Harbor, but have played off-island before and would like to [do that] more,” he said.

At the last Friday Harbor game, the final scores were Orcas 5 and Friday Harbor 8 and Orcas 5 and Friday Harbor 3.

If you are interested in learning more about game days, youth activities and volunteer opportunities offered by parks and rec, contact Program Assistant Brook Bruland at 360-376-7275. Financial assistance through scholarships and payments plans make involvement accessible for families, and for the kids, no experience is required.

“There are no tryouts,” said Oneal. “You sign your player up for a sport and they are on a team.”