Local softball league slapped by slumping economy

Coming down from the national elation of a presidential inauguration, the country has many worries and many tasks at hand.

Weirdly, we all believe, or are being led to believe, that one man can fix all things: The economy, two wars, healthcare and the college football Bowl Championship Series.

I just want to know one thing: If Barack Obama fixes the economy, will that fix the shortage of girls available for the Nevada County Girls Softball Association?

This year, unlike many years prior, the association’s participation has dwindled. Both league president Jennifer Ulatowski and NorCal representative Todd Richards referenced the faulty economy as to why the league has about 275 girls right now, compared to the 400 that participated a year ago. They closed initial registration weeks ago for spring but are keeping spots open for interested girls.

Is nothing sacred?

“I’m pretty sure it’s the economy,” said Richards, who doubles as a coach in the league. “Most of the Sacramento leagues are feeling the hurt too.”

It’s hard to break down the exact science of any parent’s budget without cracking open their checkbook and looking at the numbers yourself. Without going so far, we all have to take into consideration that we’ve watched the Dow dip to as low 7,300, gas hit $5 and the real estate bubble pop within the last year. Signing your kid up for a league can seem costly. NCGSA costs $90 for girls to participate. But recreation, at this point, appears to be a luxury to some and their children that few can afford. At least, a lot of parents have said as much.

But when you crunch your budget, do you take into consideration the lasting affects that the constructive setting of teamwork can have on your daughter? On the future of Nevada County recreation?

“Parents are trying to save money,” Ulatowski acknowledged. “Ninety dollars is a lot of money. But how many people spend $90 on gas when your daughter can spend three months playing softball?

“A lot of people are being laid off right now,” she said. “Which is a shame because the kids need to have any release they can get so that they’re not feeling the affect.”

That’s a tough sell in a tough market. What’s even tougher is acknowledging that the numbers may not come back anytime soon in a community that has more and more families moving away. The problem is that this league, just like every other, needs the community’s support so that it is available for girls down the road. This particular softball league is a good example of an association that takes all of the money it has and attains and puts it right back into the league. And then goes out and fundraises for the rest. But the less girls, the less opportunity for survival.

That isn’t something that Ulatowski believes could happen though.

“It just has to (survive),” she said. “We’ll have a smaller amount of teams. But softball has been around forever … It has to continue. I can’t picture Nevada county without softball. It would be a real loss for all the girls.”

And for you and your family, if there were no softball league available to the girls, as is the case in other sports, athletes will only have opportunities down the hill, where the Sacramento region swells and deflates year by year.

Yeah, spend that gas money.

In a time when there is community support for everything from “buy local” to “meet your merchant,” I would venture to say that we need to play local as well. Consider that what you and your family has to offer is a strength to Nevada County as a whole and that your participation in the community keeps it thriving. In the good times and in the bad.

Unfortunately, only we can fix that.

This column originally appeared in The Union.

Seven resolutions for 2009

If you don’t have resolutions, it’s cool. I like to make resolutions every year. Makes me feel goal-oriented. Or something cool like that. Anyways, if you’re not into that, no worries. You’re probably one of those cynics I worry about.

For 2009, I made seven resolutions, each addressing a particular portion of my life. But the real reason I chose seven was because that’s how many days it was till NYE from Christmas (I know, just like last year) and that’s when I started thinking about it.

Without further ado:

1) Write more for myself — I can’t stress this enough. I spend a lot of time worrying about stories for my job and finding stories for my job but I need to start developing a story for myself. This book isn’t gonna write itself. These blogs aren’t going to write themselves. (I’m up to four now.) I’ve still got to develop my voice and build my stature. I can’t do that with my mind elsewhere all the time.

Took this flick on a recent trip back to San Francisco.
Took this flick on a recent trip back to San Francisco.

2) Take more pictures — I sort of initiated this before the new year. I need more projects and more reasons to pull out the camera and flickr away. It feels good and I love the beauty I capture. You should try it too. I’ll be in Brazil next month, getting a new camera for the trip, and I’ll be snapping away for sure. (Expect video too.)

3) Make a journalism backup plan — Yeah, I’m dedicated to the industry. But I’m not so sure the industry is dedicated to me. So I see no wrong in having a backup plan. If you’re industry lost an estimated 15,000 jobs in one year, another 300 or so in 2009, I’d tell you to get an exit plan asap. It’s just the nature of the beast.

4) Travel more — Isn’t it fun to get out of your little bubble every now and then. And I don’t just mean get out of the bubble to get to Vegas for your annual buddy mashup. I mean to see some place totally new to you, one that will challenge your perceptions. That’s what I plan to do. See new places, challenge my perspective and hopefully have fun. Brazil, here I come.

5) Take women more seriously — Let’s just say that as things have gone, nothing is going to last with the way I’m acting. Time to step my game up.

6) Forgive those that want to be forgiven and let go of all hate — I can’t hold onto grudges. It’s just not me. And I don’t think it’s healthy either. Look, there’s a lot of people in the world that deserve to be hated for reasons I don’t want to get into. It’s very easy to hate people. It’s like a tribal instinct and reaction to things of dislike or distrust. What’s not so easy, is to see beyond your reason of dislike and distrust, recognize your differences of thought and spirit, and get beyond your conflicts. That’s much harder, but I think much more enriching.

7) Be more positive — If there is one thing I want to do, that’s more important than all others, it’s to be positive no matter the situation and to never get rattled. There’s a lot to worry about nowadays, with the economy as it is and the industry in transition. There’s more to worry about with the state of the world, conflict in the middle east, two wars and less cash in the pocket. Don’t worry, I won’t let any of it get me down. I’m counting my blessings in 2009. And guess what? I’m more happy because of it.