By Rich Eckert, North Central Little League President, Milwaukee, Wis.
I have been an active volunteer with North Central Little League in Milwaukee, Wis., since my two boys were old enough to play tee ball in 2005. I was their coach for the next 11 years. I thought it would be the most rewarding thing I could do for my baseball-loving boys. I truly enjoyed it, but it was a challenge. I knew I wanted to get more involved from the onset, and I realized I had to do more. Growing up, my dad was the President of Old Bridge Little League in New Jersey. I came from a Little League® Family and that is what I envisioned for my kids.
As my boys are now graduating from high school, I realize I have served NCLL in many capacities since 2006. Over the last 37 years, there has only been four League Presidents, and I am honored to be one of them. Nearly 40 years since our founding, the league is stronger than it’s have ever been. We have a very solid foundation that has allowed us to continue to build upon our success. It obviously starts from the top. The previous Presidents are still very involved in Little League and NCLL. It has made for a very stable presence as the Board changes from year to year.
Little League is all about community. From the opening day parade to the final game, parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, fans, turn out to watch a group of kids having fun. These players get to know each other even though they may attend different schools, or live more than a few doors apart from each other. They learn to work together as a team, while building individual character.
It is also about family. NCLL is an extended family. Once you are part of NCLL you will always be part of the family. No matter where you go, or what you do you will always be part of NCLL. It is what makes our League so special, and I’m guessing many other leagues around the world. There is no greater joy than seeing one of our NCLL kids excelling at something in high school and college. It is satisfying to know NCLL has helped build that foundation to make them a great citizen and leader. Make no mistake, we are teaching them to be competitive on the field, but it is much more important to show them how to be a good teammate and a leader.
And It all starts with the volunteers. We are all volunteers and it humbles me every day what we accomplish to ensure our kids have a great Little League experience. It is not easy, but there is nothing more rewarding than getting a hug from a 5-year-old tee ball player after they receive their end-of-the-season medal. I am lucky to have 25 Board members who each have a responsibility throughout the year. Little League is a 1-month-a-year journey. The easy part is when the games start! When I first became President, we had seven Board Members. This put a strain on all of us. It is important to have a board as big as the tasks that need to be accomplished. It is also important to have a working board. Everyone must do their share, and you will be amazed at what will happen. You become a family.
It takes volunteers to support an organization as important as Little League. Do your child, and your neighbors’ children, a favor by joining in whatever capacity you can. Teach your child that volunteering is a good thing that supports an organization in which you believe. Your kids are going to be leading Little League into the future. Be a great example and volunteer. Thanks to my father, Little League was a part of my life. It taught me citizenship and leadership. Do your part and pass that on to your kids.