BY MC3 INDRA BOSKO
NAS Oceana Public Affairs
Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana’s Youth Activity Center has been supporting sports programs for children for decades but it is their staff’s creative ideas that are making a difference in recent years.
Besides offering before and after school programs, a kindergarten program and summer camp, the center, commonly known as the Youth Center, also offers the Youth Sports Program, which provides seasonal sports year round for children of military and DoD personnel.
The center has about 200 children registered per sports from ages 5 - 18. Children are only authorized to use the facilities if they are the children of parents who are active duty, retired military or DOD civilians. Over the years, the name has changed but by 2002, a new and improved program called the Youth Sports Program became a permanent part of the youth center.
Youth sports falls under the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Child & Youth Programs (CYP).
With a new name, came new personnel with innovative ideas, such as Dexter Nesbit, a retired chief operations specialist, who is currently Oceana’s youth sports coordinator.
"The center’s sports program used to be run by volunteers and has evolved around the base," said Nesbit. "The funding for the Youth Sports Program comes from military and parents."
Prior to the coming to Oceana, Nesbit worked for the MWR gyms at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard Portsmouth and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth
"After I retired, I wanted to get involved in sports because throughout my whole life I have refereed or been involved in the sports program," said Nesbit, who acquired a Master’s Degree in Sports Management from Old Dominion University.
Since coming to the center 18 months ago, Nesbit has also been playing the role of a public relations director and continues to communicate with parents to find ways to better improve the sports program and to get more children involved in sports.
"I spend more time coaching and speaking with parents so that they can come to me and tell me things that I probably may not see," said Nesbit.
Sports offered at the youth center vary according to season.
"We offer fall soccer, winter basketball and spring baseball," said Nesbit. "It’s based on weather and daylight availability."
Nesbit advises parents to register their children early.
Youth Sports Program’s current season is basketball and cheerleading. Registration for basketball and cheerleading runs from the first week of October to the first week of December; baseball registration is January to mid-March; and soccer registration from the beginning of July until August.
The youth center also partners with Midway Manor, a military housing complex in the Oceana District.
"They have their own youth center but they don’t have the facilities so they come and play basketball here," said Nesbit.
Staff at Oceana CYP also offer additional activities, such as one-day special events to give children the opportunity to compete in local sports.
"If they do well enough, they can go to the all-star game finals," said Nesbit.
Nesbit also plans on getting the children involved in the America’s Armed Forces Kids Run in May and Punt, Pass and Kick, a football tournament in September.
As a reward for the children who are enrolled in the Youth Sports Program, an end-of-season picnic is usually given in the summer.
Nesbit said that although the Youth Sports Program is a small program, its benefits are greater.
"Basically, it’s helping parents but it is also helping the child to be a well-rounded child. The real goal is to help the families, to do different activities and to be involved in more things," said Nesbit.
Nesbit would like to see continued positive evolvement with the Youth Sports Program.
"I’d like to see it grow just in sheer numbers and to make the Youth Sports Program the best well ran, best respected sports program in the area," said Nesbit.
For more information, contact Oceana Child & Youth Programs at 433-3976.