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By HOLLY TABOR
HARDIN COUNTY — The trunk of Lisa Day’s car is packed with things: lawn chairs, jackets, gloves and ear muffs, throw blankets — you name it. They stay in there, occasionally making room for uniforms, coolers, suitcases and other necessities, when the season is right.
As varied as the contents of her trunk are the roles she fills.
Day is a mom, taxi service, uniform washer and equipment checker, a coach, a cheerleader, fundraiser and volunteer. She is a sports parent. And she loves it. Her daughter, Kaelyn, is a senior at Central Hardin High School and has played basketball and fast-pitch softball since she was 5.
Day and her husband are among scores of parents in Hardin County and surrounding areas who take to the bleachers around fields, courts and gyms where their kids practice, play and compete in recreational, school and traveling sports.
For the kids, it’s something to do. For parents, it can be a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of money and sacrifice — particularly on the competitive level. But it’s a lot of fun, too.
“I can’t imagine missing any of it,” said Day, of Elizabethtown. “It’s been a blessing to watch her grow and improve as a person, and not only in her athletic ability. We have a wonderful time with it.”
Parents are the backbone of youth sports, according to Don Hill, baseball commissioner for the Elizabethtown Area Baseball Commission youth sports program.
“They work concessions, coach — most of our coaches are parents — work the gate, help with cookouts, then you’ve got your Team Moms,” Hill said. “All of our commission members are parents. They have to be involved. If they’re not involved, it’s not going to work.”
And, it’s important they stay involved in a positive way.
“The focus has to be the kids,” said Bruce McGee, president of the Radcliff Youth Soccer Association.
McGee, who lives in Radcliff, has two sons who play or have played recreational soccer and swimming.
Parents who get overly competitive or act inappropriately at youth sports events are sending the wrong message, he said. They should be there to “have fun, have a good time and encourage (their children), always.”
Dean Caswell of Elizabethtown is an assistant coach for his son Clint’s youth baseball team, which soaks up the majority of the family’s time in the summer. Clint is 9.
“It’s worth it to share the experiences,” Caswell said. “It’s something I did at his age. I’m sharing some of my experience and sharing time with this young man, helping him grow up. Baseball has been good about that for a lot of dads and sons.”
While Caswell and his son bond on the mound, his wife, Diane, takes to the stands to watch their daughter, Sarah, 15, who is a cheerleader for Central Hardin.
Between the late nights, the eating out, the conditioning and gymnastics, games and competitions, camps, fundraising and carpooling, “it all kind of runs together,” Diane Caswell said. “But it’s just wonderful to be there. You kind of just have to let them do what they’re going to do, be who they’re going to be. You hang in there with them and watch them grow.”
Candace Payne of Elizabethtown has two children who play sports. Peyton, 10, plays recreational football and baseball and traveling basketball; and Presley, 5, is a cheerleader and plays soccer. Candace wants them to participate in sports because it helps them become well-rounded, she said.
“I believe organized team sports teach teamwork, discipline, loyalty, pride, social skills, accountability, improved self-esteem and good sportsmanship,” she said.
And there is another perk to kids being involved in sports.
“Kids that are busy stay out of trouble,” Sherrie Bridges of Elizabethtown said. “And it keeps them in shape.”
Bridges and her husband, Cutter, have three children, each playing at least two sports either on a recreational, school or traveling team.
The family stays busy “from the time we get home from work until we go to bed,” she said. “Every other weekend in the summer, we’re traveling. We always miss vacation during the summer.”
Each time they write checks for team fees, equipment, gas and other expenses, they joke about wanting a nicer house or to be able to buy things and take trips.
“But I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bridges said. “It’s how I grew up. All my great memories are of my mom and dad following us around. That’s what we did.”
Holly Tabor can be reached at (270) 505-1745.