It was an eye-opening experience. “After you saw all these athletic facilities and the shape that a lot of these fields were in, it was just very bothersome, knowing that it was happening in our city.”
McLaughlin spoke with Keith Sinor, the athletic director for the Oklahoma City Public Schools, who was on that trip.
Sinor outlined his vision for renovating the 44 fields in the OKC Public School system, assisting the 265 coaches who needed a support system and giving student athletes a much-needed mentoring program.
McLaughlin told Sinor, “We’re going to be your booster club, and we’re going to need to get a lot of people involved.”
The change is happening in schools across OKC, and Sinor and McLaughlin’s dream is now becoming a community reality.
On Oct. 6, the public will see it with open arms as sports stars including former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer and National Football League player Gerald McCoy, along with other soccer, softball and baseball pros open a new sports field at Webster Middle School.
Sinor’s passion for athletics stretches back to his youth growing up in OKC. He knew kids needed more than just an opportunity to go out and play.
“If I’m a student-athlete and I play softball and I’m going out to a field that has no dirt and has rocks and broken glass and litter in the grass, I’m not as inclined to participate as I might be if I were walking out to a field that is like one you’d find in the suburbs,” Sinor said. “Our kids deserve the very best, the best coaches, fields and equipment, and we want the community to engage with us to provide them the very best.”
Jefferson Middle School has seen that revitalization, going from having a neglected field with no games to a brand-new field with an incredible level of student participation and an outpouring of community attendance at their sporting events. It is a tangible result of the early work thus far.
Stacy McDaniel of Oklahoma Cleats For Kids is a partner in the movement to revitalize schools — and the local community — through sports. Cleats For Kids collects and distributes sporting goods and shoes to kids who need them.
“One of the
middle schools picked up 28 pairs of football cleats before the
football season started because they had kids that were playing in just
regular tennis shoes or basketball shoes,” McDaniel said.
“The kids feel pride in being able to play other schools and feel safe in playing. What has been so fun is seeing the impact that our two organizations can make on the kids in Oklahoma City by working together.”
Peter Evans of the Oklahoma City Police Athletic League also sees the results. “There’s no doubt that with these new facilities comes a renewed sense of pride in your school, and that’s not just for the kids in the school; that’s for the surrounding community as a whole,” Evans said.
Participation in sports generally means better students.
“The more time they’re with us, the more time they’re around positive influences and positive role models, the less time they have to get out and get into trouble,” Evans said.
“The evenings and the weekends when we’re having our camps is really when they have those opportunities to potentially go out and do things they really shouldn’t be doing.”
Lee Welker from the Wes Welker Foundation also knows the importance of having good role models in all areas of a child’s life.
“It’s the coaches that are impacting these kid’s lives, and it’s all about the leadership,” Welker said.
“We’ve partnered with Fields and Futures in order to build these coaches up, help them with the X’s and O’s, but more importantly help them with their leadership style and how they can become a better leader for their kids.”
McLaughlin calls his involvement through Fields and Futures “the right time in his life.” He credits his family upbringing with his philanthropic motivation and knows that his family, especially his wife, Liz, is a huge support. “Without her, this wouldn’t be possible,” he said.
Fields and Futures
a new field for Webster Middle School
2-5 p.m. Oct. 6
6708 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Guests include: host Kelly Ogle, coaching legend Barry Switzer and NFL player Gerald McCoy.
Kids are invited to participate in mini sports clinics hosted by the OKC NASL Soccer Pros, the Oklahoma City Redhawks, and the University of Oklahoma Softball Program. Also included will be food, games and prizes.
Free. Open to the public.