The South Iredell Athletic Association was organized to provide a lower-cost recreational youth sports alternative to traditional club teams.
Through support from local businesses, the group provides "old-fashioned pickup games where every child plays," said Donna Moffett, the association's president. "Everything connected with the program is purchased through local businesses."
The children play, and local businesses benefit.
It gets better: SIAA gives back to the community, so far having donated more than $114,000 for various projects done throughout Iredell County. The group finds a need and partners with others to benefit the schools and locations where its teams play.
For example, the association partnered with Duke Energy to install lights on the baseball fields at Brawley Middle School. To air-condition the gym at Brawley Middle, it helped bring together the school, its PTSO, a vendor and a bank to pay for it. The association helped install crash pads on concrete blocks at Brawley Middle, lights at Troutman Middle, basketball equipment for Lake Norman Elementary and goals at Mount Mourne School. Baseball and softball fields are graded and lined with SIAA's help.
"In the early years, we helped fund the irrigation at Stumpy Creek Park," Moffett said. "We've done lots of things over time."
Founded in 1995, the organization has been run by volunteers, headed by a president and a board of commissioners. Seeing a need to expand the organization to focus on its mission, the board recently hired its first employee, Tracy deRoos of Mooresville.
"It's nice to be a part of an organization that makes you feel like part of the family," deRoos said. "SIAA is so focused on the kids."
In 2010 the association put 55 basketball teams with 585 players on the courts. It fielded 400 players for in its baseball and softball programs and 130 players in volleyball.
"The theory is that children like to play with the children they go to school with," Moffett said. "The SIAA program truly is recreational sports. We're educating the children early on so they have the fundamentals (of the sport).
No one is denied participation.
"Every child is accepted into this program. No one has to try out," Moffett said. "We do get into a lot of effort to 'skill out' our players. If a team comes out at the end of the season with a 50-50 record, we feel like we've done great.
"We make it fun. No child wants to lose all the time. Every child wants to win all the time, but that's not life, either."
DeRoos said, "It's a very economical way to play. The club-level teams are very expensive. We run from $50 to $95."
DeRoos recalled a who moved to the area and heard the sports programs here were expensive. The woman said she couldn't afford to let her children play, until she learned about the SIAA's programs.
"Anyone can sponsor a team," deRoos said. "It's a wonderful way to promote your business, a tax write-off."
Moffett said the kids enjoy the sponsorships, too, in their own way: "It's fun to wear a T-shirt with your mom or dad's business name on the back."
Community needs that SIAA is focusing on now include the campaign at Lake Norman High School to build a brick-and-mortar building with restroom access for the baseball and softball fields; an effort to buy portable goals at Lake Norman Elementary; and the need for major upgrades of the fields at Woodland Heights Elementary.