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Participation in West Fargo youth sports grows significantly

Young soccer players scramble for the ball at the Scheels Soccer Complex in West Fargo. David Samson1 / 5
Jaci Verkuehlen of Casselton heads for first base after a hit during T-ball play at Service Club Park in West Fargo. David Samson2 / 5
Jordyn Anderson, 3, of Fargo celebrates a goal with her mother, Sarah, at the Scheels Soccer Complex in West Fargo. David Samson3 / 5
Rowdy Radel of West Fargo reaches for the ball during play at Service Club Park. David Samson4 / 5
Rob Berg instructs his son, Peyton, 4, while Krista Klein watches the outfield with 4-year-old Gretchen Klein. David Samson5 / 5

Participation in West Fargo summer recreation programs has gone bonkers.

“We have more kids in our youth baseball, softball and T-ball programs than Fargo. That just blows me away,” said Barb Erbstoesser, executive director of the West Fargo Park District.

Summer park programs run from June 1 through the end of July, with a few extending into August.

This year, 1,119 children ages 4-13 signed up for park district baseball and softball programs, said Lance Belisle, recreation manager.

Another 1,000 play baseball in Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth programs that are not part of Parks and Recreation, he said.

Youth soccer has 448 kids enrolled, from 3 years old to kindergarten, he said.

Another 300, first grade and up, play with the independently run West Fargo Soccer Club, he said.

“We know that three to five years down the road those numbers are going to look dwarfed compared to what’s coming,” Belisle said.

“We’ve had an explosion in everything,” Erbstoesser said.

That’s made it hard to find coaches and parking space, said Belisle.

Credit that to rapid population growth – 72.9 percent from 2000 to 2010 – boosting West Fargo’s population to an estimated 30,000 people.

“There’s all the new developments in West Fargo, and they are all young families that are moving in,” said Belisle.

Baseball registrations were up about 120 kids over last year, he said.

“With young families in town having kids, that need gets greater in the future,” Belisle said.

The city could use another four to eight baseball fields, he said.

So far there are plenty of soccer fields. “We have a problem with parking for all the families that come to the facilities,” Belisle said.

“We’ve just got to be creative to maximize the space that is given to us,” he said.

Finding enough coaches hasn’t been easy, either.

“It’s definitely a struggle, especially for soccer and baseball coaches,” Belisle said. “We also try to get parents to help out when possible.”

Interest in soccer has spiked dramatically in the past five years in the Fargo-Moorhead area,

Belisle hopes that kids now playing soccer will become involved in coaching when they become parents.

“I have no problem finding basketball and baseball coaches because most parents who played those sports are willing to help their kids,” Belisle said.

Established West Fargo hockey programs have made it easier to find parents with hockey experience that are now willing to help coach, he said.

Overall, feedback has been positive. Complaints have been minimal, considering the number of kids enrolled in West Fargo programs, Belisle said.

Enrollments in other park district summer programs include:

  • Summer camp – 130
  • Arts and crafts – 200 
  • Ice skating lessons – 68
  • Basketball for beginners – 62

“We do the best we can with what we are given,” he said. “We’re trying to offer the best programs we can for the residents of West Fargo.”