Field of play wide open for young athletes

Kids have options all over to participate and compete

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter



The Evergreen Bulldogs represented Vancouver at the Pop Warner Super Bowl tournament in Florida to cap the sixth-grade team’s 2012 season.

More than a dozen middle school runners for the Evergreen Storm Track Club went to Albuquerque in December for the Junior Olympics national cross country championships.

Soccer teams won state and national tournaments. Gymnasts reached for new heights. Swimmers and bowlers and baseball teams shined at regional and national events.

The list of young athletes and teams from Clark County who excel far beyond Southwest Washington seems to expand each year, as do the number of opportunities available to those with the drive, passion and resources to pursue big dreams.

But for parents, coaches and young athletes, the real success happens close to home.

A Little League baseball player experiences the thrill of a first hit.

A gymnast learns the satisfaction of perfecting a difficult skill.

A soccer player learns a bit about teamwork and dedication. A young boxer figures out that footwork and fitness are critical to success in the ring.

Organized sports have the power to teach lessons that last a lifetime, to nurture confidence, to challenge and thrill kids, to form lasting friendships. Playing sports can be a fun way for young people to benefit from exercise.

But before any young athlete can reap such rewards, they must find the sports that they enjoy.

The search can be tricky, in part because the variety of sports and programs available seems to grow each year. While traditional team sports such as soccer and baseball are going strong, lacrosse is gaining popularity in this region. And for teens, rugby clubs are fielding teams for boys and girls.

The range of individual sports is broader. Some of the options: swimming, gymnastics, track and field, equestrian sports, cycling, rowing, tennis and martial arts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that both parent and child understand their objectives for choosing a sport. And winning an Olympic medal or making millions in the NBA probably shouldn’t be the goal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics website, only one in four outstanding elementary school athletes becomes a sports standout in high school. Only one in more than 6,600 high school football players will ever rise to the professional football ranks.

Ideally, children can experience many sports on the way to finding their comfort zone as an athlete. In addition to giving children the chance to find the sports they most enjoy, playing more than one sport can broaden social networks and lessen the risk of repetitive-use injuries.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying specialization until a child has reached puberty. Its website,, is a good resource on many topics related to kids and sports, including injury prevention and treatment.

When looking for sports programs for a child, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness recommends parents spend time with their child playing different sports and recreational activities.

Most organized sports programs offer financial assistance, or the option to trade volunteer time for participation.

Once a child has found a sport or sports that he or she enjoys, parents can explore more advanced programs.

In Clark County, youth sports programs are available through parks and recreation departments, community education programs, fitness clubs such as the YMCA, and established youth sports programs such as Little League and youth soccer clubs. The number of private teams organized by parents — particularly in baseball and basketball — continues to grow in Clark County.

Asking friends, classmates, and neighbors about the programs they have enjoyed can be a good starting point —  especially when investigating individual activities such as gymnastics or martial arts, which are offered by a wide variety of private businesses.

Among important questions that experts encourage parents to ask are these:

• What kind of background checks and training do coaches undergo? Are they certified by any authority?

• What is the time commitment involved for games and practices?

• What is the complete cost of the program and does it cover insurance? (Note that many programs offer financial aid).

• What is the skill level required of someone new to the sport or program?

Here is a list of youth sports programs in Southwest Washington:


Little League: The 18 Little Leagues in Southwest Washington are divided into two districts: District 4 (, and District 6 ( Registration for most Little Leagues is in January. The administrator for District 4 is Michael Ray,

Babe Ruth Baseball: Ages 13-15. Two leagues serve Clark County: Hazel Dell Metro (, and Camas-Washougal Babe Ruth (, 360-216-7372). Hazel Dell Metro also offers Cal Ripkin for ages 11-12 (70-foot base paths).

Senior Babe Ruth and American Legion: These are competitive summer teams for high-school-age players. Information is available from high school coaches.

Independent teams: Privately run teams for many ages play during the summer. These teams play tournaments and in leagues such as the Junior Baseball Organization, The teams usually form through tryouts in the fall. The East Clark County Baseball Association is one,

Miracle League: The Miracle League of Southwest Washington is a league for players of all ages with physical and developmental disabilities. It offers seasons in the spring and the fall.


In addition to competitive independent teams and programs affiliated with schools, youth basketball is offered through the following groups:

Battle Ground Community Education, 360-885-6584,

Camas Parks and Recreation, 360-834-5307,

Clark County Family YMCA, 360-885-9622,

Evergreen Community Education (Evergreen Public Schools), 360-604-4082;

HotShots Youth Sports runs basketball leagues for grades one through six. There are seasons in the fall, winter and spring, 360-604-7955,

Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department, 360-619-1111;


Clark County Chapter of the United States Bowling Congress oversees league play and sanctioned tournaments at the county’s bowling centers. Contact a bowling center, or call 360-694-6348,

Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts

Brave Legion, 14010 N.E. Third Court, Vancouver; 360-574-2400;

The Police Activities League of Vancouver offers boxing for ages 8-18. Call Curtis Kimbrough, 360-487-7487.

Fisticuffs Gym, 7110 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver. 360-772-3312;;

JRT Boxing and MMA, training for competitive boxers and those interested in boxing or MMA for fitness and self-defense. 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver; 360-904-6666, or Jack Thompson, 360-882-3354.

Fast-pitch softball

Amateur Softball Association: The Vancouver Girls Softball Association provides fast-pitch leagues for girls up to age 18. Sign up in January. 360-699-0664;

Little Leagues: Most area Little Leagues offer softball. See Baseball list for information.

Tackle football

Clark County Youth Football, tackle football and cheerleading for grades two through eight in the fall. 360-693-2293;

Pop Warner Football: Greater Northwest Conference includes four Clark County clubs and two in Portland with tackle football and cheerleading for ages 5-14. 866-257-0466;

Catholic Youth Organization: Vancouver teams for grades five through eight participate in Oregon leagues;

Flag football

Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department: flag football league, 360-619-1111.

Catholic Youth Organization, Vancouver: Teams for grades three and four participate in Oregon leagues;


Most local courses have programs for youth golfers.


Kids Club Fun & Fitness, 13914 N.W. Third Court, Vancouver, 360-546-5437;

Naydenov Gymnastics, 5313 N.E. 94th Ave., Vancouver, 360-944-4444;

Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy, 840 N.W. 10th Ave., Camas, 360-834-7424;

Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy North, 6707 N.E. 117th Ave., Suite D, Vancouver, 360-254-7958;

Ice skating, hockey

Mountain View Ice Arena: Youth programs in skating, ice dancing and ice hockey. Open skate for families and speed skating club. 14313 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver; 360-896-8700;


Boys high school lacrosse: King’s Way Christian School in Vancouver and Camas High School have competitive lacrosse teams. At King’s Way, middle school and high school students from much of Clark County can participate. Camas’ program, new program in 2013, serves students in east Clark County. The boys varsity teams play in the Washington High School Boys Lacrosse Association in the spring. Visit

Girls high school lacrosse: The Evergreen Girls Lacrosse Club is a varsity and JV program for girls attending Evergreen Public Schools high schools.

Southwest Washington Youth Lacrosse Club: Lacrosse for boys and girls in grades three through eight.

Martial arts

Many local studios offer classes for youths in a variety of martial arts.

Roller skating

Golden Skate, 4915 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver; 360-696-0368,


Vancouver Lake Crew offers youth rowing clinics and fields competitive high school teams, along with programs for middle school students and a summer boating camp for kids., or 360-600-8359.


In 2012, Battle Ground, Camas and Prairie fielded teams. Vancouver was the first rugby club in the area, but did not participate last season. For information, contact Oregon Youth Rugby,


Ski resorts in Oregon and Washington offer recreational and ski-racing programs. Vancouver Ski Bus provides supervised transportation to Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort from the Salmon Creek neighborhood, north and west Vancouver, Ridgefield, La Center and Battle Ground.


The main recreational soccer season is in the fall, but spring leagues are available. The Southwest Washington Youth Soccer Association ( is the umbrella organization for Clark County.

Advanced competition youth soccer is a year-round activity, with teams usually formed in the spring with tryouts. Vancouver Timbers (, affiliated with the Portland Timbers, merged during 2012 with Camas-Washougal Soccer Club. Salmon Creek Soccer Club ( and Pacific FC ( also field advanced-competition teams.

Youth soccer is governed by Washington Youth Soccer (

Indoor soccer leagues are available at two indoor arenas in Vancouver: Clark County Indoor Sports Center (360-604-4487,;) and Salmon Creek Indoor Sports Arena (, 360-571-7628), as well as through the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department (360-619-1111).


Columbia River Swim Team based at Cascade Athletic Club, 16096 S.E. 15th St., Vancouver;

LaCamas Headhunters, based at LaCamas Swim and Sport in Camas;; 360-834-8506.

The Tornadoes, based at Hough Pool in Vancouver, 360-696-8245;; or Tanya Ramsey, 360-667-0381.

Vancouver Swim Club practices at Marshall Center pool, or 360-487-7100.

Swimming lessons are available through the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department and at many private health clubs.


Vancouver Tennis and Racquetball Center is operated by Vancouver Parks and Recreation, 360-696-8123.

Club Green Meadows, 360-256-1510.

Lake Shore Athletic Club, 360-574-1991.


The Columbia Empire Volleyball Association, based in Beaverton, Ore., governs competitive volleyball in Southwest Washington and Oregon, 503-644-7468. To find teams that serve Clark County and Vancouver, visit


For a list of clubs in Washington, visit

Askeo International Mat Club: Wrestling club for all ages. Practices are 6:30-8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Damon Mcpherson, 360-773-3382;,

Camas Crocs Wrestling Club:; 360-834-6886.

Southwest Washington Wrestling Club: All ages. Practices are 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays in the wrestling room at Battle Ground High School. Merle Crockett, 360-263-4947 or mcrockett; 509-427-8270.

Facilities and programs

Public organizations that offer youth sports programs include:

Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department, 360-619-1111,

Vancouver Tennis and Racquetball Center, 360-696-8123,

Battle Ground Community Education, 360-885-6584,

Camas Parks and Recreation, 360-834-2362,

Evergreen Community Education, 360-604-4082,

Washougal Community Education, 360-954-3838,


Sports clubs, facilities and organizations that offer youth sports programs and/or teams:

Clark County Family YMCA, 360-258-3831,

Clark County Indoor Sports Center, 360-604-4487,

Club Green Meadows, 360-256-1510.

Kids Club Fun & Fitness, 360-546-5437,

Lake Shore Athletic Club, 360-574-1991,

Lacamas Swim and Sport, 360-834-8506,

Mountain View Ice Arena, 360-896-8700,

Salmon Creek Indoor Sports Arena, 360-571-7628,