‘Our kids, our community’

The Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County basketball court (pictured above) will help facilitate a new coaching program by the organization.

Local Boys and Girls Club increases access to sports, community

Dec. 12, 2018 — The Boys and Girls Club of Western Lane County (BGC) is working on expanding its sports and STEM offerings, including new coaching programs, go-kart races, video production, new staff assessments and opening up its teen center to all teens, while at the same time building working relationships with the Siuslaw School District.

“They’re all our kids,” said BGC Executive Director Chuck Trent. “They’re not the Boys and Girls Club kids, they’re not the school districts kids. They’re our kids. They’re our community. What we want to do is continue to build bridges with the school district in every way we can to make sure the kids have the academic skills that they need to make sure they’re good citizens. That they give back to the community. And to make sure they have healthy lifestyles — and obviously sports is a big part of healthy lifestyles. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

One of the first major steps in building those relationships is BGC’s recent hiring of Dylan Perry, Siuslaw High School’s basketball varsity coach, as the club’s part time overall sports coordinator. Perry will help train coaches for the program, bolster the existing sports programs and work closely with the kids.

“I’m not sure how much detail I can go into with how BGC will be working with the school through my program,” Perry said, “but I can say that I will be trying to develop a strong relationship. It is important for our younger athletes to interact and have contact with our older athletes so that we can build a positive culture at an early age in our programs. I plan on getting high school athletes to volunteer their time and give back to their community through coaching and mentorship.”

Trent said, “The advantage of having Dylan in there is because, obviously as the varsity basketball coach he knows the plays, the offense and defense. He knows the skill set. By having him come in and run our basketball program, he really has the opportunity to develop the skill sets with kids. So, if they choose to go on through the middle school and into varsity basketball, they have the ability to do so.”

For Perry, the biggest difference between coaching at the school and BGC would be the age differences and skill levels of the kids.

“I will be coaching a first-second grade and third-fourth grade team this season for BGC basketball,” Perry said. “The plan is to have our coaches put a lot of time and effort into the fundamentals of the game. It is important to begin these skills at an early age so that as we progress through the program and into the school teams, we are properly prepared to compete against the best teams and schools the state has.”

Perry will also work to help train coaches, who are generally parents volunteering their time as a way to spend more time with their kids.

“We will be putting together coaching clinics to teach the fundamentals of the sports,” Perry said. “I expect to find coaches who care about the kids and who are eager to teach the fundamentals of the games they will participating in through their grade school years. I’m not sure I would characterize my style in training adults, I just expect them to try and put themselves in the child’s perspective and to be patient with their coaching duties.”

BGC also hopes that the inclusion of coordinated coaching classes will help bring in more adults to the program.

“I hope that we can continue to get larger numbers of participants for all the sports that we offer through the club, and that we can get more parents involved to help coach our youth,” Perry said.

As Perry works to strengthen the sports programs, other BGC staff will focus on academics.

“It goes to healthy lifestyles,” Trent said. “One of the things that Dylan and I have talked about is making sure that, because we have so many student athletes, we continue to have their academics go into the direction they need to go to make sure they graduate on time and stay in the programs. This is a really good partnership, in particular with athletics, homework and mentoring.”

“I hope that there will be other ways the district and BGC might begin to work more together,” Perry said. “I am quite new to this relationship, but I plan to do my best to bring our community closer through all outlets.”

One of those possible outlets is through the creation of a “Microd” club, which Trent hopes could foster a stronger relationship with the district’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs.

“Essentially, it’s miniature hot rods,” Trent said. “They’re souped-up go-karts powered by lawn mower engines that have roll cages, safety harnesses and are low to the ground, so they’re not going to tip over.”

Microd racing began New York in the 1950s, with children building and racing the miniature race cars around dedicated tracks. The cars themselves, made of wood frames, rarely go above 20 miles per hour. While there have been a number of clubs that have popped up on the east coast and Midwest throughout the decades, the sport has yet to take off in the west.

Terry Tomeny, who helped build the successful Florence Air Academy with the BGC, brought the idea to Trent in hopes to build up a robust and popular program for the community.

“What I would like to see is by June, we race these cars,” Trent said. “We could start out with a large parking lot, but the idea is on Saturdays to have a community event to watch the kids race. … Eventually we’d like to find someplace where we can actually build a track.”

The education portion of the microd’s come with the students building them.

“We find volunteers to help us buy these microrods, so the kids actually do the work,” Trent said. “They have a mentor who helps them use hand tools, how to do the assembly, the maintenance. Everything from tire pressure to the lawnmower engines to the brakes. It’s really mechanical in nature.”

BGC would start by training older kids in car creation, who could then take their knowledge to mentor younger kids.

“I’ve not talked to the school district yet, but our approach is building bridges,” Trent said. “The school does robotics and the automotive shop. What if we partnered with the automotive shop? We could have some of the kids in the automotive shop help our younger kids build these. The overall idea is to be able to help kids know how to use small tools and basic maintenance.”

Trent said the club already has some sponsors identified to fund the cars — they cost $500 to build — and others who have volunteered to help teach the design of the cars.

Other STEM projects include teaching by local videographer Gary Quinn of Okey Dokey Video Productions, based in Florence.

“He’s going to teach video production,” Trent said. “We’ll actually have students produce our videos that we want to put on Facebook on our webpage. Then computer repair as well, and Gary owns a commercial drone business that he can teach. We’re going to have several electives for our older kids, and exposure to potential careers.”

In addition, Trent hopes that a partnership can be made with the school district to give BGC members school credit for their work.

“We’ve contacted (counselor) Steve Moser to begin that discussion,” Trent said. “Anything that we can do to help these kids have exposure to potential as they graduate from high school is still a good thing. We’re still in the early stages, but that’s the direction we want to go.”

Aside from partnerships with the school district, BGC is also working to strengthen its own programs, such as Smart Girls, Passport to Manhood and Money Matters. The club kids have even started their own student council, where the kids make their own rules, such as cell phone policies.

“Part of that is to teach the kids how to have a voice in a constructive way,” Trent said. “It’s also helping them understand the consequences of their actions. That’s a really important part of their mentoring and passport to manhood. As they get older, the consequences of their actions are greater when they get older. What we want to do is teach them problem solving skills and coping skills to make informed decisions, and to understand the pros, cons and impacts of those decisions.”

To ensure that the programs at BGC are properly administered, the club is partnering with the Oregon Community Foundation, using the Youth Quality Program Assessment. Through a combination of self-assessments and an outside observer, club staff are scored on areas such as emotional safety, skill building, interaction and engagement with the students.

“We’ll take our self-assessments, combine them with an external assessment that doesn’t have any ties to our club, and then we get scored on that,” Trent said. “They’ll give us an overall score, and we start building an action plan on areas that will have a bigger impact and meet the needs of our kids. This is a very intensive, three-year program to make sure our staff and programs are outstanding.”

The club has also been working on enhancing their facilities with the inclusion of the Nan Osbon Teen Center, which had its official groundbreaking earlier this year and is now up and running.

The center, which is designed for teens in grades eight to  12, includes two classrooms, a computer lab, a kitchen and an entertainment area that includes a pool table, a big screen TV and two vintage pinball machines.

While the center is fully functional, there is still some cosmetic work that needs to be done.

“We’re having [the teens] help us putting it all together to move forward,” Trent said. “This is their space. What would be really cool is working with some of the local artists in the community to do murals and different things like that.”

Trent also emphasized that the building is for all teens, no matter if they are members or not.

“Any of the high schoolers who need access to a computer to do their homework, they can come in here,” Trent said. “They don’t have to be a club member. The most important thing is that the kids have a safe positive place, be it here, the school district, CROW. Wherever it is, we just want to make sure, working together, we’re doing the right thing for the kids. We want to build bridges with the rest of the groups. It’s our communities’ kids. It truly does take a community to make our kids successful.”

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