Imagine a sports program where winning isn’t the emphasis, but good sportsmanship, building relationships, having a good attitude and a good time is. Pretty neat, huh? That’s the philosophy at Post Falls Parks and Recreation.
When a youngster signs up for soccer, baseball, basketball, flag football or volleyball, the parents and child together must sign a code of conduct. The parents “vow to provide positive support, care and encouragement at all times for their child,” display good sportsmanship, put the emotional and physical welfare of the child above their own urge to win, support coaches and officials, keep the events drug, alcohol and tobacco free, prompt their child to treat other players, coaches, fans and officials with esteem regardless of race, sex, creed or ability, and much more.
“We don’t keep stats; it’s all about attitude,” said Mitzi Michaud, recreation manager. “We remind the parents to have a good time. We only acknowledge sportsmanship.”
Recently, one of their outstanding coaches, Michael Wolf, was presented with a plaque containing photos of all of his teams, for being the 2008-2009 coach of the year. Wolf started coaching kids in 1977 when he was a sophomore in high school in Montana. Wolf has three kids of his own: a 21-year-old son who is on his way to Iraq, a 12-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. He’s coached all of his own kids, coaching for Post Falls Parks and Rec for seven years.
“I’ve coached in Montana, Washington, Nebraska and Kansas. This is the first park and rec to push sportsmanship with the parents,” Wolf said.
Wolf has nothing but praise for Post Falls Parks and Rec, saying the people are always friendly, the atmosphere always positive. He said the department does extensive background checks on its coaches, who he said are all top-notch.
Wolf truly loves coaching. He estimates he has coached more than 160 kids.
“I look at it as all the kids are mine – my own kid doesn’t play more,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with outstanding boys and girls, and I’ve had great parents.”
Indeed, Wolf’s teams have won 15 sportsmanship awards during his tenure. He goes over the code of conduct right off the bat and has the parents and kids sign it together.
“I teach the fundamentals of the game, but I teach them to respect one another,” he said.
He said the kids support one another as well. Cristine May said her son Nick, 12, has been diagnosed with autism. She was very wary of organized sports for fear of her son being teased, or the emphasis put on winning.
“Then I met coach Wolf,” May said. “He understands that one child’s 100 percent isn’t another child’s 100 percent. It’s about cheering for everyone else (on the team). The kids have been awesome.”
May said her son is extremely high functioning, but autism is frequently a sensory and social disorder, and she knows that parents yelling at their kids to perform better is something that wouldn’t work with Nick.
“I’d much rather have them learn about sportsmanship because that will take them further in life,” May said.
Wolf has a special way with kids. With tears almost welling up in his eyes, he talks about one girl who came from a rough household, who told him he made a difference in her life. He even has nicknames for his kids such as Blue (a girl), Cupcake (a boy), and Hammie Squirrel (a girl).
“If a kid is having problems, he tells us to put them on his team,” said Penny Young, administrative specialist at Post Falls Parks and Rec.
Coach Heather Eddy has coached with Post Falls Parks and Rec for eight years and has known Wolf for six of those.
“I think the staff is good – they are supportive of the kids. It’s a great program all around,” Eddy said. “They really care about the kids. We really emphasize the code at the first meeting (with parents). I tell them it’s not about us – it’s about the kids.”
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