By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has made a commitment to making her county more active than ever. Her term as the first African-American woman has begun with a commitment to young people to provide greater support and funding for youth sports in Prince George’s County.

“Youth sports instill the values of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication in our young people,” Alsobrooks said during her campaign. “They simultaneously strengthen the fabric of our community as they bring parents, families and friends together.”

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks discusses the state of youth sports in the County and hopes to provide more support, funding and opportunities for the young athletes. (Courtesy Photo)

Alsobrooks recently met with local youth organizations in late January to discuss the challenges facing youth and participants in the county and how to overcome them. Her agenda is a bold and aggressive one that will not only require input from league organizers and youth coaches, but will also involve County leadership in Annapolis to support moving forward.

During a meeting at Tulip Grove Elementary School in Bowie, Alsobrooks said she would be presenting legislation to the general assembly that would make youth sports part of the mission of Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

“Youth sports is important. We’re making this a part of our education agenda,” said Alsobrooks. “It’s not just what happens in the classrooms that makes for strong students. Sports and athletics allow us to build character in our kids. This is a key part of our education agenda which is building whole children.”

Prince George’s County athletics is getting more national attention with the success of outstanding professional athletes that are making a name for themselves. The notoriety of NBA All-Star and two-time world champion Kevin Durant has recently magnified the talent of young athletes throughout the County and what they’ve had to overcome to compete in high school and college sports.

During another stop at the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Alsobrooks met with a group of coaches and league organizers about the perils they are facing when looking for adequate fields to host games and leagues.

“A lot of these fields we cannot use because they have potholes in them,” said Bewanda Alexander, with Kettering, Largo, Mitchellville Boys & Girls Club. “They aren’t being kept up and they don’t have lights.”

“You have baseball players and teams that can’t use the fields because football teams and baseball teams are now fighting over fields so it becomes an issue,” said Aaron Graves Sr., head baseball coach at Riverdale Baptist High School. “It’s bad.”

Despite producing the most standout college basketball players of any community in the United States, Prince George’s County still faces a dearth of adequate facilities for the number of teams and leagues in competition. Most are small and antiquated and have gone without repair for decades. That has put a premium on using the few state-of-the-art gyms, which doesn’t make it easy to host events or play full league schedules.

“Everyone is trying to get into the same gyms. There are only a few schools you can get into,” Alexander says. “And the schools that we have historically used, the principals for some reason don’t want us in there. They want to charge us more money to come inside the school. It is very much a crisis.”

Alsobrooks said she found the information “heartbreaking” but, remains steadfast with her agenda to aggressively push legislation that will place youth sports under Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s (MNCPPC) authority and open more fields and gyms to athletes and youth leagues, especially while improving the coordination between athletic clubs, parks and schools.