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Cheers for the real MVPs of Pike recreation!

I remember first reporting on the Pike County Parks and Recreation Authority’s 10-year master plan. At the time, my girls were playing recreation sports (they both tried soccer and they both tried softball and one of them loved softball and is still playing today – travel ball to challenge herself and recreation ball just to enjoy playing!)

I remember telling fellow softball parents about the plan – which would include new baseball and softball fields and even a hiking trail between the soccer complex and the fields. One parent said what I was thinking, “That’ll never happen as long as my kids are playing sports.” But we were both wrong.
PCPRA board members and employees didn’t listen to the naysayers and instead continued to work toward the goal of improving recreational facilities and creating a healthy atmosphere for young athletes and coaches. Now, two of those fields have been completed and this season, my oldest daughter will play on a new field as she enjoys a game with her teammates – including many athletes from surrounding counties who choose to play in Pike.

My daughter loves her recreation coach and has always been blessed with fantastic coaches. One of the reasons so many athletes choose to pay the out-of-county fee and play in Pike is because of those coaches. They care about teaching the players the skills necessary to win but mostly, they care about teaching players important lessons about life – how to accept loss but not give up, how to try again even when it’s tough and how to get it done even when no one else thinks it’s possible.

I like to think I’m a positive person in general but I simply didn’t believe any of the projects on the original plan would get the funding required. But they did, due to the perseverance of a small number of people who believed the projects needed to be completed to make Pike a better place to live and raise a family. Now my daughter gets to play on one of the new fields this spring. And I am so excited about exploring the PCPRA’s new walking trail after it is completed!

Thank you so much to current and former PCPRA board members and employees who have worked so hard to make these plans a reality by not giving up on securing funding and a special thanks to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for their recent $1.5 million grant.

Memories made at the ball field and the park are carried for lifetimes and often, generation after generation of athletes return to the same recreation fields with their kids. It’s not just about the good times and the home runs or big wins. Many lessons are learned during an ‘off-day’ or a big loss by the team. Kids (and parents) learn that they can’t always get everything they want in athletic competitions – or in life – but they can always learn from setbacks and continue to work hard even when it’s difficult. Along with the mechanics of kicking, hitting, dribbling or throwing a ball, young athletes learn the most important lessons – teamwork, patience, perseverance and dedication. Not all athletes who play seasons at the recreation fields will be superstars but they all learn something from the experience that can help them later in life.

So, big thanks to everyone – from coaches to recreation authority board members – for all the priceless memories and lifelong lessons! You are the real MVPs!

Rachel McDaniel has worked for the Pike County Journal Reporter for 15 years and has spent nearly eight years coaching and assisting with recreation sports.

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