It’s important to keep our leisure services programs strong and vibrant

Published 8:30 am Friday, November 23, 2012

The group of concerned citizens who gathered to voice opinions to the Bainbridge City Council last week should be commended. I also commend Mayor Edward Reynolds and the Bainbridge City Council for their role in the accommodating those wishing to speak at the meeting.

To me, each side acted appropriately, and other groups that wish to address the city council, or the county commission, should follow the lead of this group. Like my Maw Maw often says, “you attract more flies with sugar than vinegar.” In other words, acting and speaking in a respectful way goes a long way.

The group, which by best estimates numbered 30 to 40, was in opposition to the transfer of Diane Atkinson from the assistant athletic director in the Leisure Services department to become the city’s special events coordinator.

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The majority of those voicing opinions seemed to be either former coaches, or parents of children who have participated in the city’s sports programs, particularly baseball and softball.

In any business or organization, personnel changes are inevitable and common. Many times, the reasons for such moves are never known, except to the ones directly involved in the decision making process.

In this case, the reasons for the move have never been made public, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that announcements of the reinstatement of athletic director Stanley Bell and Atkinson’s transfer were made on the same day. Bell had been suspended pending an investigation of an alleged physical altercation with another man who coached in the city’s baseball league.

The investigation, performed by Bainbridge Public Safety Deputy Director Frank Green, yielded no evidence that the physical altercation occurred.

I would not expect the decision to transfer Atkinson to be reversed, due to this group’s show of displeasure. And, I am not advocating such a move. Sometimes, decisions that we may not like or understand turn out for the best.

I have full confidence that Atkinson will tackle her new assignment with the same care and determination that made her such a success with her previous role. I have that same level of confidence that Joanie Williams, the new assistant athletic director, will do a wonderful job.

A healthy, robust, and vibrant youth sports program is sign of a healthy, robust, and vibrant community.

For the past two years, I have coached, and my son has played, in the city’s baseball program. And, next spring, I plan on coaching and my son will be playing. It will be that way for years to come.

I have heard and read comments that some would take their kids elsewhere to play baseball or softball. I have heard and read comments that coaches would no longer coach, and I have heard and read comments that umpires would no longer umpire.

I surely hope that doesn’t happen. Our leisure services programs are only as good as the community makes them. Let’s not harm the entire program. I am sure “Miss Diane” would not want that to happen.