Parks and Rec offers FREE athletic programs for city youth

Tue, 03/01/2022 - 16:00

Winchester city residents can access free athletic programs for their children through a special partnership between Winchester Parks and Recreation and Shenandoah University (SU). This agreement, which spans five years, waives the $50-$61 registration fee for city residents to play basketball, volleyball, flag football, and cheer during the 2021-2022 season.

In 2020, a management deal was signed between SU and the City of Winchester surrounding plans to do major improvements to the baseball and softball diamonds in Jim Barnett Park. This agreement includes SU funding improvements to four fields, managing and scheduling Bridgeforth and Rotary fields, and giving portions of concessions to the City to make up for lost rental revenue.

As part of this deal, SU also agreed to fund a youth sports program for children from economically disadvantaged families in Winchester. When new Parks & Recreation Director Chris Konyar assumed his role in July 2021, he immediately put the funding to good use.

“This agreement provided us a wonderful opportunity to remove some of the economic hurdles for city residents to participate in youth activities, and sports in particular,” he said. “The bonus is we will be able to continue this offer for five years.”

Youth in Winchester are already benefiting through the basketball and cheer programs. Parent Kim Marts has a six-year-old currently participating in the cheer program, and she said the free registration encouraged them to sign up.

“This is her first time in a parks and rec program, and she has gained friends and structure,” she said. “She is learning to listen to another adult and do things together as part of a team.”

Kids are learning similar skills in the basketball program. Donnie Sechrist has a five-year-old playing basketball.

“This is her first time participating in an organized activity, and she has learned about structure, teamwork, and motivation,” he said. “We will definitely participate in more programs after this – especially because they are free.”

Parks and Rec plans to add free swim classes to the program over the summer, and other organizations are offering free registration as well. Winchester Baseball, for example, had free registration for kids ages 4-10 this spring.

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Kids giving high fives after a basketball game