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COLUMN: Support Sets Tone For Long Beach Youth Sports

From the national championships for Beach FC and Shore Aquatics to the regional tournament victories for Uptown LB and Los Altos baseball leagues — it’s been another incredibly successful summer for Long Beach youth sports.

It isn’t rare to find a group of young Long Beach athletes dominating their competition, and it isn’t a coincidence that most of the successful youth teams also have phenomenal support from the parents and coaches.

Support for youth sports comes in many forms, but the most important source of support has to come from all of the parents in the leagues, not just the ones with kids on the All-Star teams.

We all know they serve as Uber drivers to and from practice all year, but when I went to the Long Beach Little League closing ceremonies in June, I was stunned at how many parents showed up to see their children take the field with their team and receive their awards for the season. It was truly a village.

All of the local youth baseball and softball teams that won tournaments this year had great groups of parents who kept us updated on all of their accomplishments. The All-Star parents do have to go above and beyond, however, and they end up traveling as much if not more than the players throughout the summer full of tournaments.

Coach Robert Weaver took that into account when he put together the Long Beach Thunder 12U squad from Cherry Park that traveled to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for a tournament at Cooperstown All-Star Village. Weaver said that he needed to find families willing to invest time and money into providing these young baseball players with the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I needed the right 11 families to pull this off,” Weaver said. “And we found them.”

Traveling isn’t cheap, as fellow Uptown Long Beach 10U All-Stars found out when they won the SoCal State Tournament and qualified for a spot in the Pacific Southwest Regional in Honolulu last month. The group was able raise some money from the community, and even The562.org founding sponsor Marilyn Bohl donated $5,000 to help them afford the trip.

“The coolest thing is that a lot of these kids could never get to Hawaii,” Uptown LB coach Jeff Champlin said. “It’s just the reality of the situation, and to be able to do it though baseball with the support of the community was just huge. Regardless of how we did in the tournament, that experience was the most important thing for me, the kids, and the parents.”

That support in a family atmosphere also helped the Heartwell Park youth baseball 15U All-Star team learn some valuable lessons while winning their second consecutive Babe Ruth Southern California State Championship.

This is the fifth year that Lyndsey Ingram has been the batgirl for this group of Heartwell All-Stars that includes her twin brother, Landon. Lyndsey, who has Down Syndrome, said it’s her favorite job and that she loves being cheered on by the crowd.

“She became their little good luck charm,” said Lyndsey’s mother, Lynette Ingram. “I like to say she’s the dugout manager. She gets the bats, helps do the lineup and bosses the boys around.”

“I’m also a pediatric therapist so I work with children with special needs and I know so many horror stories of kids who are bullied and excluded,” she added. “To see my daughter accepted by this team as a full member warms my heart.”

I think this summer in Long Beach has proven that no matter where a young athlete competes, it’s the support of the parents and coaches that makes or breaks the experience.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.
http://The562.org