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Park and Rec provides fun for all ages
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Scott Moore shows pickleball enthusiasts how to grip the paddle during his April 24 principals of pickleball clinic at Rock Creek Park. - Photo by Jessica Taylor

Dawson County Parks and Recreation's primary mission is to create a fun, safe, and nurturing environment in which people of all ages can grow, benefit, and enjoy the quality of life through diverse recreational and leisure opportunities.

Approaching his first anniversary as Director, Matt Payne has been focused on expanding the programs offered by Park and Rec and, with the help of Athletic Director Stanton Rogers, also finishing his first year with the department, has built an itinerary that boasts a dozen team sports, eight fitness programs, six skills camps and access to facilities spread over three locations in Dawson County.

“We have already added several new programs,” Payne said. “Our EPIC program, for our adults with special needs, has really taken off. Pickleball is something that we are starting to get into, and both of those are new programs.”

Pickleball has rapidly developed into one of the more popular sports offered and Park and Rec has entered into partnership with the Rotary Club of Dawson County to build a four-court facility at Rock Creek Park that is expected to be complete by Sept. 2019.

“Our outdoor basketball courts just don’t get a lot of use, it’s a great spot, we just don’t get a lot of use on them,” Payne said. “We are going to convert those into four pickleball courts on one half and the other half is going to be batting cages.”

With the addition of pickleball, Rogers expected that Park and Recreation would be providing sporting opportunities for close to 1500 people by the end of the winter season and expected those numbers to increase with the addition of tournaments and other events during the year.

“The number I found was right at 1500, including the tournaments and stuff we are part of, that is more like 2000,” Rogers said. “that’s just the athletic side, that doesn’t include some of the other programs we offer.”

Using youth basketball as the example, Payne explained the process used to build the leagues at the beginning of each season, with each season essentially producing a new group of teams.

“We hold registration for every individual age group, we recruit coaches. That’s a big part of (Rogers) job, recruiting coaches,” Payne said. “Once you get those coaches recruited, and you get your numbers established on how many teams you have, it’s the good old-fashioned try-outs and we run through some drills, and then we draft our teams. That is how we ensure our teams are as equal as we can get them on the rec level.”

Rogers acknowledged the challenge he faced in recruiting coaches but talked more about the number of moving pieces that needed to be balanced over the course of the year, and how difficult it was to manage the process during his first year on the job.

“The biggest challenge was giving the amount of attention that I wanted to, to everything when everything that was going on at the same time,” Rogers said. “Through time management and different things, I was able to figure out that this fit here, and this fit here, and I was able to figure it out.”

“My biggest challenge in the one year that I have been here, has been to turn a program like that over to a young, fresh out of college guy. I have always done it,” Payne said. “I really have to catch myself sometimes, not be over his shoulder, and back-up and let him do his job. And he’s phenomenal, he’s doing great.”

Even while talking about the challenges they faced on the job, both men clearly expressed a love for what they do and for the community that they serve through Dawson County Park and Recreation.

“We want to give ourselves away to the community, we are not in this to get rich, of course, there is no money in recreation,” Payne said. “We are here to support and to serve. This is one of those cool jobs in that you get to just serve people and play games with them.”

“And we do it for all age groups” Rogers added. “Whether you are 3 or 4-years old playing instructional softball or baseball all the way up until pickleball with 70 to 80-year old guys.”

For information on how to volunteer time or on any of the activities offered by Dawson County Park and Recreation go to www.dawsoncounty.org or call (706) 344-3646/3648.