CLAYTON — On a recent Saturday at the Center of Clayton, Dave Sendejas coached his basketball team of sixth-grade boys against a team from Forsyth School in Clayton. He spent more time offering encouragement than talking strategy, but that's fine with him.
Sendejas, co-owner of the , is happy to offer his time and services to the volunteer-supported Maplewood Richmond Heights Youth Sports.
“When Adrian (Glass) and I opened up The Post, we wanted to get more involved in the Maplewood community," Sendejas said. "We thought the quickest and best way to do that would be to volunteer to coach some of the youth teams.”
The youth sports program needs more volunteers like Sendejas, and a lot more of them than they had a few years ago. The group started five years ago so younger kids between pre-kindergarten through eighth grade could play sports with the MRH Blue Devil on their jersey, but it has outgrown its small network of volunteers.
“It started out with just a little league that we played amongst ourselves on the school playgrounds,” said Tonya Powell, a parent volunteer. “And it grew... Unfortunately what didn't grow was our little group of parents.”
The group doesn't receive any financial or organizational support from the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District.
Powell said the organization has some great volunteers who coach teams, but it has several other needs, like performing field maintenance, establishing schedules and organizing teams. Six volunteers do it all right now, she said.
"It’s become a huge organization with a lot of kids playing a lot of sports but we just don’t have a lot of hands helping it along," Powell said.
Dave and Robyn Curtis started volunteering when their kids got involved. They wanted to do something that supported all kids in the community, not just their own, Robyn said.
“Just to give them some place to go to get the energy out, but also to build those team building skills and get to know more kids in the community,” she said.
They order and distribute team uniforms and equipment for all the sports. Robyn said there are 120 kids playing basketball and 255 playing soccer this year. She expects the numbers to grow over the next few years.
Bryan Swedlund, another volunteer coach, said the kids need good mentors.
"A lot of kids now are in divorced families, so a lot of times their fathers aren’t involved in their lives," he said. "Sometimes they need male role models in their lives.”
Powell said it’s the little things that folks don’t see that they need the most help with.
“When you think of all the kids—their season is riding on this," she said. "And if we fall down on the job, their season falls apart, and nobody wants that.”
If you're interested in lending a hand to the organization, contact Tonya Powell at 314-520-8375 or firstname.lastname@example.org.