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YMCA helps young athletes get their start

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The success stories of the members of the Amsterdam Family YMCA often begin at a young age. Not far from the bulletin board with adult member’s stories is another wall with newspaper clippings of past and present high school athletes who got their start in sports such as basketball, soccer, baseball and softball at the YMCA.

A youth basketball program that began in December 2013 and concluded this past February gave children in grades K -3 a chance to get a strong start in learning the game and making new friends. Close to 100 kids participated in the program.

“Kids who play in the Amsterdam Recreation Basketball League learned skills in the YMCA,” Executive Director and CEO of the YMCA Nancy Carr said. “A lot of kids who in the recreation league played at the YMCA.”

The Youth Basketball program focuses on the basics: learning how to dribble the ball and how to pass and shoot. Players learn the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship.

“They play games and its purely skills building, teamwork, and to teach sportsmanship,” Carr said. “Coaches who are members got started at the YMCA and learn skills before moving on to the recreation leagues.”

And there are other sports programs where kids can get a good start at building their skills. An indoor soccer clinic will begin in April for boys and girls ages 3-6. The program will focus on the basic soccer skills: dribbling, trapping the ball, passing and shooting, as well as learning the values of teamwork and sportsmanship. The instructor for the program will be Willie Montero a retired professional soccer player from Costa Rica.

“It’s not a league, it’s purely skills and to teach teamwork and sportsmanship,” Carr said. “There will be two groups, one for three and four-year olds and one for five and six-year olds.”

The soccer clinic will begin on Saturday, April 12 and run for five Saturday mornings until May 17. The registration deadline is April 5th or when the session is filled. The clinic for 3-4 year olds is limited to eight children, while the 5-6 year olds clinic is limited to 12 children.

And before the soccer clinic wraps up another activity offered by the YMCA will begin: T-Ball.

“Our niche is kids when they’re young. T- ball is skills,” Carr said. “As with other programs there is skills building. The parents help out teaching them the basics. They get to run alongside the kids when they run the bases.”

The T-ball program recently got a boost from the Village of Hagaman who allowed them access to the ball field and facilities behind Pawling Hall. Last summer with the help of members and volunteers led by YMCA board Chairman John Hassfurter, the fences at the ball field were repaired and the dugouts cleaned up and given a fresh coat of paint. Signs were also posted to inform the public that the ball field (like the YMCA) is a tobacco free and alcohol free place. The Amsterdam Family YMCA also got a hand from another community organization that promotes teamwork and sportsmanship for youth, the Amsterdam Mohawks.

“The Amsterdam Mohawks helped with guidelines and dimensions,” Carr said in reference to the infield which was marked in order to carve out the correct measurements for the baselines and separate the infield and outfield.

The field was used by the Hagaman Youth Commission for many years and fielded teams in the Suburban Baseball and Adirondack Girls Softball leagues and again is taking shape to host teams once again. The YMCA is looking to field four co-ed teams of children 3-5 year old. The Amsterdam Family YMCA is currently looking for a program director to run T-ball. The program is slated to begin on May 14 and run on Wednesday evenings until June 18.

The YMCA’s services range beyond introduction to sports and include a youth center for after school activities and homework time, as well as a Summer Day Camp that involves arts and crafts, games and field trips. There is also a ‘Fun Club that parents can enroll their children in when school’s not in session. Children can also spend snow days at the YMCA. For children in grades K-5 there is a “Before and After School Care” program

“We provide wrap around care,” Carr said. “The children come in in the morning then go to school and come back after dismissal time.”

The Amsterdam Family YMCA currently provides year round full-time and part-time care for children starting at six weeks old to age five. There is a day care room for infants ages six weeks to 18 months, a pre – school room for children up to age four and a pre- kindergarten room for children age five. The YMCA follows all current state mandated rules and regulations. YMCA staff are well-trained, meeting state requirements, and are CPR and first aid certified. Parents can also check in to see how their kids are learning and having fun.

“We have nanny cams in the rooms,” Carr said referring to cameras that were installed so parents can log in and see their kids. “Mom and dad can log in and see kids having fun.”

“We have a creative curriculum here,” Carr added. “The manners they have learned is phenomenal. Family eating times and nap times are part of the requirements. Through socialization they learn to be good friends. We have them prepared for kindergarten.”

Enrolling in the YMCA Early Childhood Center’s program entitles families to a free membership. In addition to the sports programs, families can use the full court gym, the four playground area, the 2.5 miles of hiking trails or even hold birthday parties at the outdoor pavilion. The wellness center is also available to families and features a state of the art Active Trax training program.

“It’s free for members,” Carr said. “ActivTrax creates centralized workouts for health seekers or anyone. Guido (Posso) customizes the program.”

ActivTrax is a state of the art, web-based program that allows people to enter their information and process a workout based on ones personal goals. “It takes the guesswork out of it. It’s a step before a personal trainer,” Carr added.

Amsterdam Family YMCA’s Wellness Director is Guido Posso who helps anyone who wants to try ActivTrax or any of the YMCA’s wellness programs. Posso, who has a background in exercise and physiology, currently instructs small classes in TRX Suspension Training among other programs.

“Kids as young as ten years old take TRX,” Posso said of the program that involves using straps and ones own body weight to build strength and improve flexibility, balance and core stability. “All classes are open for anyone to take. I work on mechanics so that they can do it.”

Posso, who has been a part of the Amsterdam Family YMCA since 2011 is hoping more schools get involved and use the YMCA’s facilities to help their athletes.

We’re trying to create sports specifics for school kids,” Posso said. “More speed and agility for kids playing team sports. Anybody can come in and take a class. This is a small place that people don’t know about. This place is a gem. Here you can be yourself. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like it.”

The YMCA has a lot to offer the community as a not for profit health and human services organization, and it strives to help make its programs available to as many people as it can.

“The Financial Assistance Program is the heart of our mission,” Carr stated. “We want it to be accessible to all.”

The “Open Doors” financial assistance program is made possible through donations, volunteers, members, and help from The United Way. Through this program, area residents can apply for assistance in paying for services offered by the YMCA. The Amsterdam Family YMCA gave over $37,000 in financial assistance and program subsidies last year to people in need of financial assistance.

“Donations help us offset the costs and keep programs sustainable and affordable,” Carr said. “We use the money to keep program prices low.”

However, the YMCA still needs help.

“We operated at a $50,000 loss last year,” Carr said. “This trend cannot continue. We need to raise more money to keep programs alive. If we don’t, current programs will suffer. Operating on a budget of $550,000 a year we subsidize a lot. But we can do more with community support. The YMCA is so much more than just a gym. We strengthen communities.”

Since Nancy Carr took charge of operations at the Amsterdam Family YMCA she has brought back day passes, created playgroups for day care, and set up a website, Facebook page and e-mail.

“I never saw myself as the CEO of a YMCA,” said Carr, who is from New Jersey and currently residing in the town of Perth. “But, when I look back at my life goals, I always wanted to help children. To help people. It’s challenging.” A challenge, she adds, that she is happy to take on.

“I love the impact that my effort and the Y’s effort on people have made. Knowing that when I put my head on the pillow that I helped somebody.”

The Amsterdam Family YMCA is located at 58 North Pawling Street in Hagaman, NY. You can reach Nancy Carr and her staff at (518) 842-2130. Visit the Amsterdam YMCA online at http://www.amsterdamymca.com

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About Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.

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