Pullman Parks and Recreation provides opportunities for students, youth alike

Joel McDaid, WSU graduate student and Pullman Parks and Recreation coach, oversees his youth team during the first day of the T-ball session May 15 at Lincoln Middle School.

JACOB MOORE, Former Evergreen sports editor

As I kneeled, talking to some parents before our final game of the season, suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a faint object running toward me at full speed. I didn’t have enough time to react, let alone make sense of what was happening. It was all too fast.

One of my players, a 6-year-old goalie, latched on to my back and tackled me to the ground. He was merciless, grinning at my surprise. Because he’s only 6, I had no choice but to play along with his conquering laugh.

I “tried” to unlatch him, pretending I didn’t have the strength to do so. Eventually though, I found that I wasn’t pretending anymore. Just as I thought the surprise was over, I heard someone yell, “dog pile!” The rest of the team joined in and back to the ground I went.

The parents were all laughing, the kids all smiling and I, well, I couldn’t help but feel accomplished. You see, at the start of the season, my anxiety was through the roof. My mind raced with questions like, “do I have what it takes to coach?” and “will the parents like me?”

For someone like myself who plans to work in either the recreation or sports industry following college, experience is more than essential.

That’s why I can’t stress enough the value of working for Pullman Parks and Recreation. Being able to gain real-world experience with a chance to coach or officiate is like gold. You just don’t find those opportunities everywhere.

Megan Vining, the recreation superviser at Pullman Parks and Recreation, recognizes this as well.

“Unlike some other parks and recreation departments where it’s only parents or other people involved in coaching,” Vining said, “our youth have the opportunity to be coached by college students.”

Pullman Parks and Recreation offers opportunities year-round, and it doesn’t matter how old you are. Whether you’re a 6-year-old soccer player, a college student or retired, there’s something for you.

However, some of the most popular programs are geared toward the youth of Pullman.

“I got a plaque for working the very first summer day camp and it has a quote on there that says something like, ‘you make a difference in the life of a child,’ ” Vining said, “and that’s pretty much been my mantra from 1995 through now.”

LUKE HOLLISTER | The Daily Evergreen
Children run between bases while playing sharks and minnows on Monday after a T-ball session at Lincoln Middle School. Through Pullman Parks and Recreation, WSU students can coach these teams.

Pullman Parks and Recreation almost exclusively offers valuable opportunities for college students to support the youth of their community.

“We are in a very unique community where we do have the opportunity to have WSU students engaging, providing service and continuing that civic engagement with the community,” Vining said.

When I coached soccer in spring 2016, I coached for multiple parents that work for WSU, one of them happened to be a future professor of mine. I’ve even had the chance to stay in touch with most of the parents and youth players.

“Lots of coaches start coaching here and create a relationship with the family, but then they maybe go on to help coach them in basketball or baseball,” Vining said, “or maybe they stop working for us and carry on that relationship with them.”

That connection and bond to other Cougs and potential future Cougs is indescribable. You become somebody that they look up to. As Vining put it, the student coaches tend to be role models for the youngsters.

“I think the young players really look up to them in a lot of different ways,” Vining said. “They’re leading them, teaching them, being a mentor and a role model to them.”

Vining mentioned during an interview that she has a past staff member, Eric Barge, who graduated and moved to Italy and still communicates with the kids he coached and their families.

Pullman Parks and Recreation is providing opportunities to grow and gain experience for the youth and WSU students simultaneously.

“Our goal,” Vining said, “should be to make a difference in the life of a child.”