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St. John Parks and Rec gears up for an active summer

LAPLACE — Mike Sanders’ prolific athletic career included 11 years as a professional basketball player, 14 years as an NBA coach and induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. These days, he’s focused on growing the Parks and Recreation Department in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Sanders became the director of St. John Parks and Recreation in October 2020, but his passion for helping youth develop in athletics goes back decades.

“Ever since I was in college, I’ve always been involved in helping out with basketball camps. In my years in the NBA, I became an ambassador for the boys and girls club. The adults in my life helped me develop into the person I am today. That’s what helped me in life, and I just want to offer that to the kids,” Sanders said.

St. John Parks and recreation has a lot to offer for both children and adults.

As the youth soccer league runs this summer, registration is underway for girls’ volleyball, flag football and tackle football. Both volleyball and flag football are new to St. John Recreation, according to Sanders.

Youth volleyball registration is open through July 31 for girls ages 7 to 15, and the season will run September to November. The registration deadline is also July 31 for flag/tackle football. As of now, tackle football is available for ages 7/8 and 9/10, and flag football is offered for ages 5 to 14. League play begins in August.

Parks and Recreation does not only cater to sports. Seasonal art classes have been offered for children and adults since St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard took office. The next children’s art classes will be offered every Saturday in July, except for July 24, and three Saturdays in August.

Summer activities for adults include the ongoing adult volleyball league, water aerobics and line dance classes. Parks and Recreation recently hosted yoga classes for adults, and Sanders said he is looking into dates to extend the yoga program in St. John.

Other activities offered by Parks and Recreation throughout the year include basketball, baseball/tee-ball, softball and swimming. Over the past year, sports clinics have been held to teach essential skills in basketball, baseball, agility training and more.

Sanders has a vision of a community where residents of all ages take advantage of the resources offered through Parks and Recreation. He often hears that there isn’t enough for kids to do in St. John Parish, and he wants others to know that Parks and Rec is answering the call to increase youth engagement.

“I want to be in the community and promoting sports to show kids that with sports, you can be successful in life. Sports teaches discipline, how to get along with others and how to communicate. It will teach you how to be successful in other ventures that you might be interested in,” Sanders said.

The community can help by spreading the word about Parks and Recreation or by volunteering as coaches. Volunteers provide support to help leagues run smoothly and expand opportunities to different age groups.

Sanders also gave a shoutout to the St. John Parish workers for doing their part to keep local parks clean and presentable for families.

Registration forms and a comprehensive calendar of Parks and Recreation activities can be found online at sjbparish.gov/Departments/Parks-and-Recreation. For more information, call 985-536-4933.