Another group of parents have approached the Vernon Hills Park District with complaints about the Cougars Youth Athletic Association.
Tim Nockels and a few others attended the Sept. 18 Park Board of Commissioners meeting with a petition asking for an in-house baseball league to be resurrected. The group says the Cougars program has decayed due to mismanagement.
The nonprofit became a legal affiliate of park programing in 2011, which essentially means the group coordinates certain sports and gets use of fields for reduced prices instead of having a Cougars league and park district league competing against each other.
Park officials, however, have no authority over the Cougars other than revoking use of fields.
A group of parents approached the Park Board of Commissioners in January asking to start a new baseball team for 12- and 13-year-old boys that would be separate from the Cougars. The parents said continued mismanagement led to most of the children withdrawing and going to the Buffalo Grove or Mundelein park districts.
At the time, park commissioners advised the parents to keep working with the Cougars because administrators cannot provide an equal rental rate and a new team would get all the leftover time slots.
Nockels, who was not part of that group, said on Sept. 18 that the traveling baseball teams seem to get most of the attention and resources compared to the in-house league that plays in Vernon Hills only and with local children.
“We don’t want to travel throughout Lake County,” Nockels said. “We want recreational leagues here at home where our kids can play with their friends. It also allows us parents to volunteer much more easily.”
Nockels also said that in recent years, instead of coaching his son’s team, he umpired due to scheduling issues with league officials. He said his happened close to 50 percent of the time and the constant problems led to more and more parents signing their kids up in other leagues.
Fellow parent Jeff Canalia shared his own experience.
“I won a contest through Major League Baseball and was allowed to donate $3,000 to a youth club,” Canalia said. “I chose the Cougars, but my kids don’t play travel ball so I asked for the money to go toward in-house baseball. They bought catchers gear for all in-house and travel teams. They could have bought more bats or something with the money the used for travel team catchers. I wanted my kids to benefit from my prize.”
Canalia said he thinks the Cougars organization neglects the in-house leagues but keeps them barely alive so the fees can supplement improvements to the travel program.
“Cutting through all the crap, you want the park district to take some of these leagues back, right?” asked Dave Doerhoefer, vice president of the Park Board. “Have you tried asking the Cougars to change?”
Canilia said he’s never heard back from Cougars leadership, and Nockels said the administrators he’s spoken with have been “nonresponsive.”
Bill Polisson, new president of the Cougars in-house baseball league, was in attendance for the meeting.
“I’ve only been president for one year so far and we had no problems with umpires or field scheduling last year,” Polisson said. “I can’t address what may have happened in the past, but I will say things are coordinated very well right now.”
Polisson did admit that registration for in-house teams is dropping, but he said the same is happening with other sports.
“We can’t make people sign up,” Polisson said. “Our problem with numbers is not unusual. Enrollment is dwindling everywhere.”
Park commissioners agreed to not get involved, but encouraged Polisson to keep improving some of the organizational problems.
“A lot of feedback has come our way saying there’s a major lack of communication,” Doerhoefer said. “It seems like you’ve already gotten started on that. Another thing that would clear things up would be a little more transparency when it comes to the money.”