Meridian, Miss. Newly confirmed Meridian Parks and Recreation Department director, Kelvin McGruder, announced part of his long-range plan. With strong emphasis on promoting youth activities, part of it is to have most, if not all, youth sports in Meridian conducted through his department.
"Now we're bringing the kids under one umbrella, and it's bringing more mentors in, more coaches in to keep them off the streets," says McGruder. "The programs are still functioning."
So far, McGruder says local church groups, the Boys and Girls Club, and other private entities have agreed to team with the city for the current basketball season.
"Our participation increased by 20% to 30% and so, now off the top of my head, we're probably going to have 20 teams," McGruder said. "And my assistant director told me this morning that we will probably need more coaches."
McGruder says efforts are also being made to consolidate youth baseball programs in Meridian.
"What my vision is, is to take the 9, 10, 11 and 12-year-old baseball players and let all of them play at Phil Hardin Park and allow Magnolia and Crestwood to still do rookie league baseball at their own separate entities; put those kids in a tournament for pre-season, and a post season tournament, and let all of the kids that want to play t-ball, play it with the Optimist Club," said McGruder.
McGruder says part of his plan is to boost the softball program by going to local schools to meet with physical education teachers to recruit players. He says those games will be played at Northeast Park.