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Youth Sports offer opportunities for kids
Bomb Squad forward Terrance Mallory drives toward the basket as Green Machine forward Wesley Rodriguez attempts to defend during a basketball game Jan. 12, 2013, at the Youth Center on Dover Air Force Base, Del. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker)
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Youth Sports offers opportunities for kids

Posted 1/15/2013   Updated 1/15/2013 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

1/15/2013 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- According to the Centers for Disease Control website, childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years. One of the leading factors for this rate tripling is lack of physical activity.

One way Dover Air Force Base has attacked this growing problem is to offer sports through the Youth Center.

Kashante Whitaker, youth sports director at the Youth Center, said sports teach kids about life while keeping them active.

"You learn a lot of life, integrity, responsibility, and leadership," Whitaker said. "Since the obesity rate amongst children is so high, sports are also a way to keep them active and healthy."

Whitaker, who is the daughter of a retired Chief Master Sergeant, has been at Dover for a year. Living on base here as a kid, Whitaker said coming back here has been a good experience.

"It's been very fulfilling," Whitaker said. "My Dad retired here, I played base sports here, so it has been good to be back. It's been great to see the program grow. I really enjoy it."

The Youth Center currently offers soccer, cheerleading, basketball, tae kwon do and dancing. Those sports are offered to children ages 5 and up. Coming soon, the youth center will be offering gymnastics for ages 4-and-up and a tumbling class for 3-4 year olds.

Each sport requires coaches to fill out an application and pass a background check. Once cleared, they are certified to become a coach. Referees and officials are 100 percent certified and they are the same referees who officiate the adult intramural games on base.

The cost to participate in soccer and basketball is $50 for youth center members and $75 for non-members. Tae Kwon Do and dance are $45 per month since they run throughout the year.

Whitaker said the reaction from the base population to the youth center programs has been positive.

"It's going good even though we have to compete with other parks and recreation departments, like Kent County and Dover," Whitaker said. "The area is so small, and with so many people living on base, most people choose athletics closer to where they live. It would be nicer to see a bigger increase in participation."

Whitaker, who has a degree in recreation from the University of West Florida and who played soccer in college, said she would like to see the youth sports program continue to grow.

"Sports are a valuable tool," Whitaker said. "The kids get to interact with other kids. The parents get to interact. They learn the responsibility of making it to practice, making it to games. Most of the coaches have a child on their team, allowing them to do things with their kids."

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