- Photos provided by Columbia Parks & Recreation
Columbia Parks & Recreation’s Sports Division boasts a robust slate of activities for residents of all ages.
For so many of us, reminiscing on childhood memories of summer usually conjures images of sporting equipment, grass stains, carpooling, and post-game team dinners with some of our closest friends. Thanks to Columbia Parks & Recreation’s Sports Division, this tradition continues for future generations; and doesn’t stop once you’re “grown up”!
Columbia Parks & Recreation offers a year-round sports program for adults and youths, with various activities available at different times throughout the year. These programs exist to provide positive recreational opportunities that keep citizens of all ages active and healthy. The department works with other organizations as sponsors such as the Columbia Youth Football League and Columbia Youth Basketball Association.
For the past three years, Joey Wilmes has been Columbia’s Parks & Recreation sports supervisor. In this role, he oversees all youth and adults sports programming as well as the facilities these events are held. Joey is a huge proponent of youth sports programs and knows about the mental and physical benefits they afford.
“I grew up playing baseball, soccer, and basketball. A lot of my best friends I met while playing those sports. I learned a lot from my parents, of course, but sports had a huge impact on who I am and how I live my life. It built my character.” Joey emphasized that he believes participating in sports teaches children lessons on and off the field. “It helps young people become respectable adults”.
Practice is typically held in the evenings during the week, with games on the evenings and weekends. The sports programs give families a chance to do something together while also giving children structured learning opportunities and the chance to socialize with kids their own age. Sports are hugely beneficial for adults, both for overall and wellness and because they provide adults outlets from the workday and week.
For individuals and families in need, the city offers scholarships and financial assistance for sports programs and for the facilities that people can visit. There are also scholarships available from the youth organizations themselves and non-profits like the Day Dreams Foundation, which provides scholarships for fees associated with extracurricular activities to children 5-18 who qualify for free or reduced lunch at Columbia Public Schools.
In addition to outdoor sports offerings, early June saw the launch of the eSports program. Currently, the organization hosts Super Smash Bros Ultimate tournaments every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. at Columbia Sports Fieldhouse. The weekly 1-on-1, double-elimination tournament is BYOS (Bring Your Own Setup), and participants can even join a Discord community!
“We are slowly dipping into that world and trying to figure out what it can become. If somebody would have told me 15 years ago there would be scholarships available for eSports, I never would have believed it,” Joey said.
In February, Columbia Parks and Recreation earned national recognition by Sports Destination Management for its efforts to keep local sports tourism flourishing in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. The department was named “Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism,” which was awarded based on its ability to “host the best sports events, held nationally, in the face of the pandemic that showed creative problem solving, determination and courage.”
Is there a sport you’d like to see in COMO that isn’t currently offered? Reach out to the sports division and let them know! They are constantly looking to expand and improve upon the program. “We continue to try to grow the sports we offer. Come to us with your idea and we will absolutely brainstorm it and try to make it work in Columbia,” Joey says.
Sponsored by Douglass Athletic Association
Baseball/ Softball & T-Ball
Sponsored by Diamond Council
Sponsored by Columbia Youth Basketball Association (CYBA)
Sponsored by Columbia Youth Football League (CYFL)
Sponsored by Mid Missouri Lacrosse League
Sponsored by Sporting Columbia SC
Sponsored by Columbia Parks & Recreation
Track and Cross Country
Sponsored by Blue Thunder
Gans Creek Classic
For more information on the Parks and Recreation sports program and all it has to offer, visit its website at como.gov/parks-and-recreation/sports or download the COMOSports mobile app.
To contact Joey Wilmes directly, you can email him at [email protected], or call him at 573.874.7706.