Q & A with OPC’s Barkley, John
John Davis: Talk about your experience level? You were doing the same type of thing in Brandon.
Nathan John: I did baseball there as well as flag football and tackle football. I got to college and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I found out this was offered (as a major) and this could lead in this direction. It seemed like I was at the ball fields every night playing and also having a brother and a sister, too.
Davis: They had tackle football in Brandon?
John: It was a county league and that was Brandon and Pearl.
Davis: Is tackle football something you could bring to the OPC?
John: If there is enough interest. It’s something they could possibly look at. Nobody has really mentioned the need for anything outside of that, to me directly, anyway.
Davis: How many have signed up for baseball this year?
John: There are 600 in our 5-year-old T-ball group up to 15. Then we have about 40 in our 4-year-old mini sluggers. So we’re right around that 650 number all together.
Davis: Is that the number you want, the number that you can handle?
John: We could take make more and make it work. We could do what we needed to do to make it work. We don’t want to turn anybody away. We’ll accommodate where we we need to based on the interest level.
Davis: What was your experience level coming to the OPC? How many years had you worked in a park commission type setting?
John: I had been with the city of Brandon for a little over six years, since 2006. My major was recreation administration from Southern Miss.
Davis: What are your plans for baseball this year? Is your first year about learning what you might need to implement?
John: I’m trying to get my feet wet and see what has been done here and what works well. By finding that out, I can find out the needs and what can be added. There have been several mentions of a fall baseball offering, which is something I’ve done in the past and something I would be open to if the interest level is here.
Davis: Where does FNC Park rank coming from Brandon and other places you have been?
John: It’s the nicest facility I’ve been a part of and on par with one of the nicest ones I’ve seen. I hope the people in the community are aware of the luck that you have to have to get such nice facilities.
Davis: How did the spring soccer season go for you Jared? What was your review?
Jared Barkley: I believe it went well. Obviously we had a little issue with weather being as cold as it was this year. That took people off guard, but as the season went on, we had great play, great coaches, good officiating. That’s always a good combination to make everything go well. We were also blessed with nice weather there at the end, too. I believe that having Matt Slack, the academy trainer here, added that extra opportunity for people to grow outside of their normal games and practices. Obviously having the U-8 development program helps as well. Overall the season went well. It was really my first program to run because I just got out of getting my master’s degree in park and rec from Ole Miss in December. I guess you could say this was my first ‘big boy job.’ I’ve had several part-time, summer work jobs. I started working when I was in high school at the New Albany Sportsplex. That’s where I started getting interested in municipal rec and what goes on there. That planted a seed for a possible profession. I also did a couple of summers of outdoor recreation in Asheville, N.C. Then I came back to Ole Miss.
Davis: I know New Albany has soccer, but the numbers were a lot different here right?
Barkley: It was outstanding. We had 600 plus participants and definitely room to grow, especially in the older age groups. As these young kids get introduced to it, even at the mini-kicker level on Saturdays, teaching them the fundamentals so they can possibly stay with it as they get older and into high school.
Davis: What are the numbers like for softball, youth and adult, this year?
Barkley: The youth numbers, I think we’re down about three teams compared to last year. We’ve got four T-ball teams. Four coach-pitch teams. Three 9-10 year-old teams and two 11-12 year-old teams.
Davis: How do you get those numbers up? Softball seems to be that sport that has been more in neutral.
Barkley: I don’t know if there’s a quick fix to it. Coming in, being new, I’m trying to see how things are this year. I think what we can do is offer clinics in the offseason to hopefully peak interest. Having clinics in the fall, getting parents involved, educating our coaches and showing our players the proper mechanics for all age groups. Doing that in the fall would give them time to practice in the fall and the winter and improve for the spring and make the league competitive to where they want to play.
Davis: Has travel softball influenced the numbers in softball?
Barkley: There are several girls that play travel softball but they go other places to do it. I think there are some teams up in Memphis that they play in. I know Tupelo has several teams. That might have an impact on it, but I don’t think a very big impact. It’s finding ways to peak interest for the youth group.
Davis: This is not a 40-hour-a-week job. How many hours do you think you both work?
John: We do whatever it takes. We’re out there when we need to be.
Davis: Do you get there at least an hour ahead of the start of first game? I know Brad Freeman and his crew are doing the fields.
Barkley: That’s a great help right there. It’s hard to say how long we work each night because some nights are different than others. And depending on where you are in the season is different than others. (Opening night) we were running around with our heads cut off. As it progresses, we’ll have things in order.
Davis: Is the toughest thing about this job re-scheduling things after you’ve made an original schedule up because of Mother Nature?
John: I don’t know that re-scheduling is that difficult. I wouldn’t say it’s the most difficult, but I’m not sure really what would be. They all kind of play off of each other. I don’t really think about the difficulty of anything. It’s about putting the pieces together.
Davis: Does it almost feel like this isn’t work at times because you have gone into the right career?
Barkley: That’s the goal, to feel like that obviously. You want to hit that flow. It does have its moments, both lots of work and not feeling like you’re working at all.
Davis: What are you doing on a given night? Are you putting out fires?
Barkley: During the games you’re trying to think two steps ahead and see what you need to if a certain scenario pops up.
John: Hopefully the best scenario would be that we’ve put in all the preparation and work and by the time the game rolls around, our officials and score keepers are there and everything is set in motion. It just takes care of itself from there. That doesn’t always happen. There are things that are going to pop up, and it’s something different every night.
Davis: With you being in charge of registration and doing a draft for teams, in a lot of ways, you’re already thinking about the next sport right?
Barkley: Kim (Pettis-Wadley) up front and all those in the office are big helps. Registration and fielding calls, helping us out, too. We’re just one big team. Sam (Pryor) and Mike (Young) help us out if they get folks at the activity center that have a question. They will let us know about ahead of time and tell us who to get in contact with. We just all try to help each other out for the betterment of the organization.
Davis: I would think a year from now everything will feel different.
John: Hopefully. Once we get that cycle through, it will be different. We’ll have a year under our belts for sure and understand what is expected because you never really know what’s going to happen. We want to take care of the participants first and make sure we’re providing the experience they need, and are wanting to return next year.