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Letters to the Editors

State's action will destroy Toy Shop

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001


Re: State pulls Toy Shop out of yule giveaway, Aug. 29.

The action taken against the Christmas Toy Shop is just one more example of a low-level bureaucrat flexing her muscles. After all the years of the Toy Shop's community services, she decides, for whatever reason, to put the shop out of the business of providing children with a joyful Christmas.

Let me tell you some of the ramifications:

Deserving children are bound to suffer the loss of toys at Christmas time.

More than 600 bicycles will not be reconditioned for distribution. Instead they will be junked!

Approximately 80 senior citizen volunteers will not be able to gather at the Toy Shop on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to lovingly refurbish toys, enjoy the friendship of their peers and reduce their lonesomeness.

The parents and grandparents will be left with only one way of parting with the toys their children have outgrown -- junk them! No longer can they know that their "used" toys will be lovingly refurbished and presented to the next generation of worthy children.

A system built on 80 years of volunteerism will cease to exist. The 3,095 children who received 12,380 gifts last year will not receive them this year. Instead the toys will be in the trash cans of those parents who won't have any other method of disposal.

The agency told the Times reporter that the basis of its action was 45 complaints. As 12,380 toys were given to 1,265 families, 45 complaints (if true) would be .36 percent of complaints to toys given. Not too shabby! I doubt if the Department of Children and Families can match that achievement.

Shame on you, Christel Vinson of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
-- Thomas E. McLean Sr., long-time volunteer at Christmas Toy Shop, St. Petersburg

League offers place for all kids to play

Re: Soccer league founder may leave, by Lennie Bennett, Aug. 26.

After serving on the Northeast Raiders Youth Soccer board for the past six years as president, vice-president and both recreational and competitive coordinator, in addition to being a rec and club coach for eight years, I'd like to make one important statement about this article. Our league is about player development, not "win at all costs." This may sound surprising, but it's especially so on the competitive side. The Raiders Board of Directors has for my tenure been made up of seasoned, licensed, recreational and club coaches alongside tireless volunteers who work to make our league, including rec play, the best in the area.

"Win at all costs" is so flippant and cliched that it can carelessly be attached to anything that may be more competitive, more structured, or require a greater commitment of time and effort.

We have a director of coaching, whose selection was unanimous by the recreational and club members on the board. The selection was easy in large part due to great respect this candidate has for a club that included recreational play. Les Ambush immediately embraced the director's philosophy of emphasizing player development over counting wins and losses. On several occasions, Ambush told me he was proud of our selection for director of coaching. Out of respect for Les Ambush and his legacy with the Northeast Raiders, coaching director Tony Paris actively sought out Les' advice with the younger recreational players and ways to improve the soccer experience. The director implemented the league's first complete recreational coach's manual, put on free coaching clinics, arranged licensing courses and initiated a TOPS soccer for the physically challenged. This year, as in the past, we will provide training on a rotating basis for recreational teams.

We have not ignored the recreational side.

We on the board, and especially our director, have all seen the damage done when kids are pushed too far, too early, by overzealous coaches and parents: burnout, lack of enthusiasm, loss of self-esteem. Professional direction must be there to temper the parents' or coaches' desire to win with the importance of encouraging our kids to try new things without fear of failing; it's also needed to ensure that practices are challenging, yet within an enjoyable environment. Most important, professional direction must be there, above the political fray, to make the decisions to replace coaches or trainers. We could not improve as a league and ensure a quality environment without a director of coaching.

There is nothing wrong with kids growing up and being thrilled by competition, enjoying challenges, and striving for improvement. If it's done with the right emphasis in the right places, it will help build their self-esteem and confidence. We are fortunate that our board members and coaching director understand the important balance between having fun and competing, and that Northeast Raiders offers a place for all kids to play, whether it's just taking your kids out for an hour of playing on Saturday or offering them the further challenge of competitive soccer.
-- Clifford Cook, Northeast Raiders board, St. Petersburg

Article casts aspersions on Little League

Re: Soccer league founder may leave, Aug. 26.

The subject of this story used Little League as a reference in a quote, saying, "the Little League effect" at his local youth soccer program was driving him away from the program he founded.

I wanted to advise you and your readers that Little League policy differs greatly from most youth soccer programs with regard to competitive and non-competitive programs. In Little League, the child is evaluated by the personnel at the local league (managers, coaches, player agents, etc.) and a determination is made as to the placement of the child. The parent, in most cases, has little or no input into this decision -- which is how Little League has for decades avoided the problems now faced by many soccer programs.

In Little League, whether or not a child is chosen for a competitive or non-competitive team (known as majors and minors in Little League), the registration fee is generally the same. A nationwide average for the registration fee in Little League is about $45.

This is not the case in most youth soccer programs, including the program cited in the article, which lists the fees as ranging from $65 to $375, depending on the talent and skill of the player. (Incidentally, regardless of the registration fee at the local Little League level, the portion paid to Little League Baseball International Headquarters here in Williamsport is about $1 per player.)

I hope this helps to clear up any misconceptions about Little League.
-- Lance Van Auken, director of media relations and communications, Little League Baseball Inc., Williamsport, Pa.

Why not say what you really think?

Re: Many shun zoned school, long bus ride, Aug. 29.

Upon reading this article, it took me back to the early '90s when my granddaughter lived in Bethel Heights and was bused to Walsingham, yet she lived no less than five minutes from Campbell Park.

It's pure irony that such lame excuses are given as to why white parents feel their children should not (or will not) go to Campbell Park. I say, be honest and say what your heart truly feels. Then maybe you can sleep better.
-- Etta Drake Cuthbertson, St. Petersburg

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