THE WOMEN'S SOCCER Association of Columbia, a league that was one the first of its kind in Central Maryland and has functioned independently for nearly 25 years, has decided to let the county's Department of Recreation and Parks administer its affairs.
The reason seems to be a combination of growth and shortage of volunteers to cope with the multiple pains of budgeting, scheduling, rainouts, officiating and field booking, said Janell Coffman, a sports supervisor for the rec department and assistant women's soccer coach at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville.
The league will likely have more than 30 teams playing this fall.
"What I understand is that they couldn't come up with enough new blood to select a full slate of officers," Coffman said. "But we're glad to have them."
As many a youth-sports volunteer has learned, and those in adult sports know, too, an organization can simply get too large for volunteers to run effectively, given all the nonplaying time required.
Several attempts to reach Molly McDermott, the league's president for several years, for comment were unsuccessful.
Two years ago, McDermott was concerned about a lack of younger players coming into the league, which seemed a bit odd, given the numbers of women players being cranked out by county high schools and colleges.
The move by the women under the rec umbrella follows a merger with the county of a once-independent men's league last year.
A side note: The Camp Springs over-40 women's team has signed up to return to Howard County A-division play, Coffman said.
The Camp Springs bunch, a dominating team in the league for years, dropped out this spring to work on conditioning with a fitness trainer in Rockville, looking ahead to the U.S. Amateur Soccer Association's national tournament. It worked. As reported here earlier, they won their second national over-40 championship in three years.
Gads, here's wishing folks would stop talking, writing and thinking about the Columbia Association in terms of "governance." No wonder so many people who live elsewhere think Columbians are weird.
For good, bad or indifference, the Columbia Park and Recreation Association, which is its full-mouthful but correct name, is just that - and little else.
It isn't a homeowners association, either, at least in function, although its property tax-linked revenue and covenant-enforcement role muddy that a bit.
But remembering the last time the association's directors or administrators publicly fought a road, shopping center, air pollution or any other staple of bona fide homeowners associations is hard to do.
If you cut out all the "governance" guff and marketing fuzz and talk simply about golf, tennis, walking, running, cycling, fishing, working out, skating, horseback riding within Columbia, you're talking about parks and recreation run and maintained by a public entity that, legally, is a private organization.
Fact: Columbia developer James W. Rouse and colleagues set up the association to lay off the sizeable, upfront costs of many fun-and-games and-park-type amenities they thought desirable for marketing their new town, as well as to maintain them.
Back in Columbia's earliest days, no real rec department existed, and the farmers and exurbanites who dominated the county then didn't think (many still don't) that tax money ought to subsidize play.
Whatever else we may think about the Columbia Association, with the perspective of 30-plus years, yet another of Rouse's idea has proven brilliant. The association continues to enhance the quality of life not only in Columbia but in the county, as well.
Lots of rec departments across this nation would love to start each fiscal year knowing they'll have something approaching $50 million arriving like clockwork.
Howard Sturman, the 44-year-old Columbia power lifter profiled on this page a couple weeks ago, won one age-group division and finished third in another in his first USA Power Lifting Organization's national bench-press championships. He fell shy of his goal to break his age-group national record of 375 pounds (set at a regional meet).
Among his lessons: "I've got to start working more on flexibility. I've always concentrated on just strength, but I can see now that a lot of the best lifters are surprisingly flexible, too.
"I've never seen so many people at a meet," he continued, "and it kind of rattled me when my turn came. Where I've been competing, there usually are 20 or 30 guys. At the nationals, it was something like 230, and I'll tell you, some of the bigger ones make [Ravens middle linebacker] Ray Lewis look small. Amazing."
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