By DANIELLE TEPPER
After several years of rebuilding, the department was able to field a seventh- and eighth-grade boys team for the first time in decade, parks & rec director Memone Crystian tells redbankgreen.
“Our objective is to get Red Bank kids playing through to the high school level,” she said, to the background sounds of hardballs landing in leather mitts. “To do that, we need to get them interested, which is why we’re having a day like today.”
Next challenge: getting girls out on the diamond.
Crystian said the day, which doubled as a season opener and showcase for other sports, was organized in part to say “thank you to the players and to the families who believe in the rec programs. We hope to grow this bigger and bigger every year as our program grows.”
All around Count Basie Park, kids in different grades participated in either sanctioned or exhibition games while almost 200 people wandered the fields and sidelines.
“We have football sign-ups on one end, soccer tryouts on another,” said Crystian. “There’s free food and festivities, beautiful weather. It’s a great day to try to get kids to want to play outside.”
Crystian and Councilwoman Juanita Lewis both noted, however, that the program has seen one significant loss over recent years: female athletes.
“We’re losing our girls,” said Crystian. “They’re just not turning to sports for some reason, so for this upcoming year, that’s our focus. We’re going door-to-door, sending emails, doing whatever we can to get them to come out for softball.”
Crystian said this is not just a concern for Red Bank recreation, but is an epidemic spreading across neighboring towns as well. “Shrewsbury, Little Silver and Rumson have all cut their female teams completely because they had no one. We don’t want to do that. Girl athletes rock. We’re committed to making sure this program is there for the girls, too.”
Lewis says one possible reason is that girls just lose interest, and “we need to find some other ways to reach them, new ways to get them engaged.
“Recreation is very important. It unites the town and gives opportunities to our kids,” said Lewis. “We have a great director. She believes in Red Bank kids and does amazing things. She’s making more out of less because budget constraints are always looming, but she’ll go the extra mile.”
Information on Red Bank sports programs can be found here.