FAIRFIELD — John LeMelle wants kids to get in the game. Make that several games, and he’d like them to do it with the North Bay Panthers Youth Sports Organization.
LeMelle is president of the fledgling organization, which has a 12-member board, and looks to start by fielding youth teams in football and cheer, basketball, baseball, 8-and-under softball and track and field.
“We’re kind of trying to bring the multi-sports (athlete) back,” said LeMelle, who played point guard for Vanden High’s 1985-86 state championship boys basketball team and also dabbled in baseball and soccer.
“It’s been so concentrated on year-round baseball or year-round basketball,” LeMelle added. “After football season, kids are always looking for something to do, another sport to do. All we did was football. We’re trying to keep kids busy and do the other sports instead of just football season, give kids options. Some do football and like to run track but not basketball. Or they like basketball but not baseball.
“They have different interests, but we’re here to supply all the sports to them.”
Though they’ve yet to join a league in youth football – “I have three different leagues (toward which) we can go in a direction,” LeMelle said. “We’re deciding that here this month” – the Panthers hope to start with four teams, from tiny mites division to junior midgets, of approximately 25 players each.
“Aug. 1 is our official start,” LeMelle said. “After football season we branch off into track and field, basketball, baseball and softball. We officially became an organization on Jan. 1 of this year.”
Basketball and track and field would be tied to the American Athletic Union, LeMelle said, with the baseball and softball teams traveling to tournaments.
Finding players to fill those team is a challenge, but not the biggest one, according to LeMelle.
“Actually the biggest challenges are finding the right coaches, good coaches,” he said, “because we’re more focused – since it’s youth sports – more focused in the introduction of sports, teaching, not always winning all the time, to go into high school developed and ready to go.
“I think youth sports has gotten away from that, from teaching, and into winning. If you teach, you may have kids not that interested in (a particular sport), but learn and may want to do more. They may want to become a great high school star.”
The Panthers football teams look to play their games at Rodriguez High with a schedule opposite that of the Solano Mustangs, which also use Coach Ed Hopkins Memorial Stadium. Practices would be at Montebello Park in Suisun City.
“I’d like for everybody in the area to try and get on the same page instead of so much competition,” LeMelle said. “Not that competition is bad, but . . . not an ‘us against them’ kind of thing. We want kids to enjoy youth sports. You play baseball with someone else, but if you play basketball, come on over, we’ll support you, we’re all in this together.”
The Panthers will be holding a family night/fundraiser at Jump Highway, 455 Lopes Road, Fairfield, on Friday from 6-9 p.m.
“It’s a chance to meet the board and the coaches,” LeMelle said. “There’s free food and people can sign up.”
The Panthers are holding another fundraiser, but for a much different reason. Taliyah Sweeting, 7-year-old daughter of board members Maryrose and Irving Sweeting, was recently diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer of the connective tissues.
To raise money for Tailiyah, the Panthers are holding a carwash on Saturday at Carl’s Jr., 2380 North Texas St., Fairfield, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For information on the Panthers, go to www.northbaypanthers.com or call 266-6530. The organization can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fpfarmerdr.