Originally published at www.timesunion.com by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist.
Albany, NY - Kids in Albany County will have access to free youth sports starting this summer in Cohoes and Ravena as part of a new partnership between the county and the Amateur Athletic Union, officials announced.
The program overseen by the Albany County Recreation Initiative will begin with flag football and karate in the coming weeks and expand to lacrosse, hockey and learn-to-skate lessons this fall and winter, County Executive Dan McCoy said.
McCoy said Cohoes and Ravena were chosen as pilot locations to target areas of the county not currently served by as many youth athletic programs as other communities.
"As budgets are getting tougher, more and more towns, cities and villages have to make drastic cuts," McCoy said. "But to me, to have a foundation in any community we need to start with our youth and give them the building blocks for success."
"You learn how to win, you learn how to lose, you learn how to participate as a team," Morse, of Cohoes, said of the importance of youth sports. "You learn every aspect of life in one game."
The sheriff's office, meanwhile, will use money seized in connection with criminal investigations to fund each participating kid's $14 membership in the AAU, a nationwide youth sports organization that sanctions major tournaments.
"For every kid that wants to play AAU, we will fund it," Sheriff Craig Apple said, adding that the kids will also participate in educational programs focused on things like drug, gang and bullying prevention, as well as possibly reading for younger children.
Jo Mirza, treasurer of the national AAU board, called the organization's partnership with the county unprecedented and something it hopes to duplicate nationwide.
Mirza said the primary goal is to develop kids into better citizens through athletic competition "not better athletes — that's a byproduct."
AAU National Treasurer and Karate Chair, Jo Mirza (3rd from left) with Albany Co. Officials. Photocredit Jenn Miles.
McCoy said the AAU will pick up the insurance costs associated with the sports programs, and that the partnership will also be a boon for downtown business if the county can leverage its relationship with AAU to attract major events like the national karate tournaments that drew thousands of competitors and their families to the University at Albany in 2008 and the Times Union Center in 2010.
Parents interested in signing their kids up should contact the Albany County Recreation Initiative in Voorheesville at 518-655-7948.
John D'Antonio, executive director of the initiative, said that once the programs are seeded in Cohoes and Ravena the county hopes to expand to the Hilltowns and other communities.
D'Antonio said the county hopes to eventually broaden the sports offered to include basketball and volleyball.
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