South Charlotte

Group turns 30 and is still growing fast

With the New Year, the Waxhaw Athletic Association will celebrate its 30th anniversary.

What started as a local baseball organization with a handful of players has grown into a competitive multisport league serving nearly 2,000 young athletes and their families in the greater Western Union County and south Charlotte area.

"WAA is now the fastest-growing athletic association in Union County," said WAA President Rick Giarla. "They offer recreational and competitive leagues in baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, and cheer, and have earned a reputation for having an accessible program that kids can grow with over time."

He also said last year was a record year for WAA on several fronts.

"WAA had a 20 percent-plus increase in every sport in 2011, with our basketball program growing by 41 percent and a 100 percent increase in our cheer program (65 girls last year versus 132 this year). We are anticipating overall growth across all WAA sports to be 25 percent in our anniversary year."

Residential growth in the community helped drive the group's expansion, but that doesn't begin to tell the story. Further growth has been fueled by the increase in young athletes from greater Union County, south Charlotte and even South Carolina neighborhoods.

"In 2008, WAA partnered with the town of Waxhaw to lease and develop a large field system at H.C. Nesbit Park, including baseball, softball and soccer fields," said Giarla. "In 2009, WAA joined forces with the Waxhaw Soccer Club, enabling the organization to expand its competitive league offerings and secure additional grant funding.

"In 2010, a competitive cheer program was added, along with new studio space in Waxhaw. Additionally, WAA continues to support youth sports camps and clinics throughout the year, as well as adult softball leagues during the summer months."

For 2012, the association is embracing technology to expedite communication and accessibility. WAA is launching a new website - www. Waxhaw Athletics .org - to facilitate player registration, scheduling and communications with families. The site can be accessed now for 2012 spring registration for baseball, softball and soccer.

"We want to encourage parents to visit WAA's new website, learn more about our great programs and register their children to play," Giarla said.

The WAA board also has allocated funding to train coaches and refurbish fields and facilities.

"We are a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that puts a lot of heart and hard work into everything we do," Giarla said. "We've built a strong sense of community here, and we welcome new players and their families."