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Start a Youth Sports League

When Braxton Schools didn’t offer soccer, Braxton parents created their own 200-kid soccer club, Jennica Barker and about 20 other parents are volunteer coaches. Barker’s four kids play in the league. “It gives me a new way to be with them,” she said. (Photo: Kate Long)

When Braxton County Schools said they couldn’t offer soccer, Braxton parents did it themselves. A parent took out a newspaper ad, asking if others wanted their kids to play soccer.

Their example – and many others – say: This is something you can do!


Every Thursday night in Harrisville, community volunteers, including kids, worked on The Gym. Here, kids are helping finish the gym floor. Photo courtesy The Gym.

Ten years later, Jennica Barker is one of 20+ parents who coach in The Braxton County Soccer Club for more than 200 children at a field they lease from the county. Barker’s four kids all play in the league. “It gives me another way to be with them,” she said. And as of 2013, Braxton County started offering high school soccer.

In Ritchie County’s Harrisville (population 1,876), citizen volunteers have turned an abandoned school building into a community gym and multi-use facility. The local Assembly of God church started the effort with a financial donation and a lot of volunteers. With almost all donated labor, they refurbished the gym and installed a rubberized walking trail around the edge. “Our little town could otherwise could never have afforded a facility like this,” said Doug Jackson, a lead volunteer.

They call it “The Gym.” A children’s basketball league plays inside and a mini football league and soccer league play free of charge on a leased adjacent field. In exchange they help keep up the field.

Eight West Virginia communities are lucky enough to have YMCAs and/or YWCAs, which offer a range of afterschool sports programs. But in communities that don’t have one, Harrisville and Flatwoods show what citizens can do.

Read more about The Gym at .


Advice on ways to get started:


Here are some high-quality resources:  



Toddler soccer gets kids started. “Many of our coaches are learning along with the kids,” said Flatwood’s Aaron Sliger.

  • Great guidebooks and handouts. This whole site is worth exploring. Particularly aimed at helping lower-income communities.
  • National Alliance for Youth Sports.  Has strong sections of advice for recreation agencies and parents.
  • Upward Sports.  This is a Christian youth sports organization that helps churhes organize teams or leagues. Go to the upper left corner and type your zip code into “Find a place to play”
  • Want to start a student sports team or league? Want to connect with others who have done it?

  • First, inventory existing leagues and groups in your area. What’s missing? (There is no statewide overall list of privately-run West Virginia leagues, though lists exist for some specific sports.)

YMCA of Southern WV: Get ideas about a variety of  YMCA sports programs and get-moving programs. Click on “programs:”

  • Y-Move: All WV YMCAs offer the 30-minute Activate America exercise program as part of the daily afterschool program: “30 minutes of functional conditioning in a kid-friendly circuit training format that utilizes lively cardio-cascular, agility and balance games to get your child active.  Y-Move helps improve body composition, joint integrity, bone density and muscle endurance.”


    All over the state, volunteers coach young boys and girls in Little League.



photo: Chip Cunningham, The Charleston Gazette



Tennis: Youth tennis is not yet organized statewide. You can find various local opportunities by typing “tennis, West Virginia, afterschool” into a search engine.

West Virginia’s min-Mountaineer Afterschool Program, specializes in tennis. This national program has two local West Virginia locations – Berkeley Springs and Beckley – and aims to spread statewide.







Swimming: About a dozen West Virginia swim teams belong to USA Swimming, the nation’s largest governing body for swim teams. Together, they are West Virginia LSC (Local Swim Clubs). Most train at a YMCA, a college or university or some other indoor pool. Membership has lot of benefits, including extensive training and background checks for coaches and other resources: Click on “Member resources” at the top of the page.

The Fairmont Area Swim Team (FAST) has provided hundreds of young people with a great way to stay fit.

WV Local Swim Committee: Fairmont’s FAST (Fairmont Area Swim Team) has a well-developed program with three different levels of competitive groups and regular events.

Bicycling: National Interscholastic Cycling Association (high school mountain bike league) offers a good how-to-start-league handbook.

West Virginia Mountain Bike Association includes student groups.


Several youth sports leagues operate out of the refurbished Harrisville community gym. Barketball,teams involve dozens of young people. Photo courtesy The Gym.

Boys basketball:

For any other sport: Go to and type in afterschool and the name of the sport, and a variety of resources will come up.  Then go to a search engine and type in the name of the sport, “West Virginia” and “afterschool,” and West Virginia resources will come up.

Start a junior Olympic program. Type “USA Junior Olympic programs” into a search engine to find a wide variety of links to various junior Olympic sports. Junior Olympic programs are eligible for various helpful resources, including grants and events kids can attend.


Be sure to read the $$ page of this Web site. 



Want to make sure snacks and other aspects of your program are healthy?


The Braxton County Commission rents the Flatwoods field to the Soccer League parents created for a dollar a year. Photo: Kate Long

 Also see these related Try This pages: Start a children’s running group, Girls on the Run, afterschool programs, running / walking groups, school run-for-fun groups, share school buildings after hours, Get parents and kids exercising together, Hula hoops, Frisbees and other fun stuff



Have something to add? Write it in “comments” below, with your contact info, in case we have questions.


  1. Dear Brethren,

    We need Christians from your ministry, who have the heart and passion for the youth to come here and train us on how we can effectively use SPORTS as a tool for reaching the youth in our community with the gospel i.e. Football, Net ball, Basket ball, Volley ball and many others which you are talented in.

    We are a Christian missionary agency known as HEART FOR THE NATIONS based in the country of Malawi, Central Africa. We are registered with the Malawi government.

    I have come to know your ministry recently and the great work that you do for the Lord, through your Website.

    Please come and help us. For more information call us on: +265 999 933 000 or e-mail us on: or write to us on our postal address below.

    We will host you or a team that you may send to us.

    Brother Aubrey Chawinga.



    P. O. Box 20275,

    Lilongwe 2,


    Central Africa.

  2. could you please email me a package on how to start a christian non profit youth league sports program. any help in this matter would be greatly appreciate. thank you for your time and consideration.also we are Methodist

    • Amy, check out the resources on this page. Many have “how-to” components. You may also want to team up with your local Extension Service. They often come into schools to help deliver or set up cooking classes.

  3. I would like to start a baseball team for my daughter and her friends both boys and girls and I would like to know where do I start!

    • Hi Luz – What a great thing to do! Look on this page, Start a Youth Sports League, and find the Little League listing. Contact them. They have all kinds of “how-to” materials. Here’s a good link: Stay in touch!

      • You’ve hit the ball out the park! Inieldcber!

    • Hi Luz – What a great thing to do! Look on this page, Start a Youth Sports League, and find the Little League listing. Contact them. They have all kinds of “how-to” materials. Here’s a good link: Stay in touch!

  4. We started a cheer and football teams in TSFL and trying to buy equipment any help would be great


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