Pedersen on Sports

Our sports guy, always making friends, has issues with USA Youth Sports

Thanks to our wonderful climate, which allows for almost unlimited outdoor activities, there's no shortage of options when it comes to finding a sport for your kids to play. Want to get them active and out of the house? Don't worry, you won't be lacking for options.

A healthy debate would occur if people were asked to pick which of these many leagues and organizations is the best choice, partly because each offers such a unique experience, and partly because they frankly all do so much good for the youth of our community. It'd be hard to go wrong with whichever you chose. Hard, but not impossible.

No discussion is needed, though, if you want to know which of these groups is the worst of the lot: that would be USA Youth Sports, and it's not even close.

Anyone who has labored through my ramblings and ravings—whether as a supporter or, more likely of late, an opponent of my viewpoints— knows that I consider youth sports an important and worthwhile effort. I believe wholeheartedly in the mission of these groups and advocate devotion to the cause, with special emphasis on remembering that most of the coaches in these youth outfits are doing it for their love of the game and their love of children.

But the people running things? Well, that's where it can get hairy.

No one gets involved in these kind of organizations if they're not big on kids, and kids doing well. But there's got to be much more than just a want to do well for kids. There's also got to be an ability to do so effectively.

And this is where USA Youth Sports comes up way short. Believe me, I've experienced the effects of this poor performance.

I've had kids (or stepkids) play sports in a bevy of different leagues in Southern Arizona over the last 10 years, and while each and every one has had something that could use improvement, none are anywhere near as poorly run as USA Youth Sports.

If you've not had a child play in one of this group's leagues, let me fill you in. And show you how lucky you are.

If you have had the misfortune of being a USA Youth Sports parent, then none of what follows will be that shocking. In fact, it might stir up painful memories, so feel free to look away.

Since forming in late 2009 and getting approval from the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2010, USA Youth Sports has offered the likes of baseball, basketball, flag football and soccer for kids ages 3 to 13. Most of the kids are from the south and east sides of Tucson, as well as Vail, Sahuarita and Sierra Vista, with games played at various parks and facilities across the region.

It's structured similarly to other such youth leagues, with teams coached by parents who volunteer their time to run practices and guide teams in competitions during various seasons throughout the year. Scores aren't always kept, especially at the younger ages, and the emphasis is on learning rather than winning. And like in most other leagues, the kids have a great time.

The fact that games don't happen at the time they're scheduled, or are listed as being at two different times and two different places, is thankfully lost on the participants. Same goes for the rampant mismanagement that results in team picture sessions listed as being on one day, but happening on another. Or teams dropping out of the league without their future opponents being notified. Or parents being charged fees to watch games at venues where they've been told that no fees would be charged.

How does all this happen? For further explanation, you'd need to ask Eduardo Payan, the man behind USA Youth Sports. Yes, the one man behind an organization that, according to its 2012 federal tax return, had revenues and expenses that both exceeded $210,000.

Payan is the only person listed on any of USA Youth's corporate documents, whether it be those for taxes or those filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission. There might have been more added in the past year, but the 2013 annual report hasn't been filed yet, despite being due in November. The 2010 report wasn't filed until May 2011, so you might be waiting a while to read the latest update.

Compare that to any local Little League outfit, where there will be several officers, not to mention a board that votes on how things are run.

I have had many conversations with Payan over the past two years, both as a coach and a parent, and while I am sure he means well (and he's usually quite apologetic at the many deficiencies that have popped up), it's quite evident he cannot successfully run a league. Certainly not by himself, and probably not even with adequate assistance. Not that he'll ask for it.

Not once during any preseason coach or parent meeting has volunteer help been requested for anything other than coaching individual teams, which is a given. Asking for help with scheduling? Finding and maintaining fields? Nope.

How about ensuring that teams are properly balanced in terms of roster size, to prevent a division of 7- and 8-year-old soccer players from having five teams with eight or fewer players and one with 13 ... and the league rules call for 7-on-7 or 8-on-8 competition? Never mind the fact that three teams are co-ed and three are all-boys.

Oh, and one of the teams is coached by someone who cannot do games before 6 p.m. on Fridays, but that information isn't passed along to the other coaches in the league.

And let's not forget having all the paperwork for a season indicate games will begin in February, and then notifying coaches on a Thursday afternoon in late January that they'll be playing two days later. And the time and location of those basketball games will change three times between then and Saturday.

There's certainly a demand for such leagues. According to USA Youth Sports' 2012 tax return, the organization had more than 4,300 participants that year. That's awesome.

It's also far too much for one person to handle, and that one person has to know this. And it makes you wonder why that one person hasn't reached out for assistance, as if there's a reason he wants to do it alone.

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