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VIProfile: Chad Ragle

by Gay Lyons

Chad Ragle, Director of Knox Youth Sports, has longtime connections to the program. He worked as an umpire and on the fields when he was in high school and college. His mother ran the concession stand for 20 years, and his father helps with concessions and keeps score at basketball games at Deane Hill.

Knox Youth Sports started as the Sequoyah Youth Baseball Leagues in 1956. The non profit organization Knox Youth Sports was formed in 1990 in order to expand operations, offer more team sports and allow youngsters from a larger area to participate.

Ragle, a Knoxville native who played baseball at Hiwassee College and Tennessee Wesleyan, speaks enthusiastically about the program and the lessons to be learned from participation. “We want kids and families to have a great experience,” he said. “We want to be the best recreational program we can be. There are a lot of life lessons in sports: being a good teammate, being responsible, discipline, respecting your parents.”

Emphasis is not on winning. “Obviously everyone wants to win,” he said, “but you want to be gracious when you win and when you lose. It’s how you take these losses and learn from them. Our slogan is ‘Building Character Through Team Sports.’ We want kids to have fun and learn the sport. Worry about wins later.” “2500-3000 kids, mostly elementary school age, come through the program each year” said Ragle. “During the last four years there have been roughly 200 kids on scholarships. We don’t turn anyone away.”

The program fields teams in baseball, softball, basketball, flag football and lacrosse. Most games take place at Lakeshore Park. Lacrosse games are at Tarleton Fields; basketball games are played in various gymnasiums: Deane Hill, West Hills Elementary, Rocky Hill Elementary, Webb, Episcopal School of Knoxville and Sacred Heart Cathedral School. “There are over 200 volunteer coaches,” said Ragle. “We wouldn’t be as good as we are without those volunteers.” Participants pay roughly $200 per sport, but the fees do not cover the costs of the programs. Expenses include payment of officials and field maintenance workers, gym rental fees and uniforms. “Uniforms are our biggest expense,” said Ragle. “We try to provide top notch uniforms. We do major league replica jerseys.” With spring baseball season 2021 getting underway soon, Ragle looked back to this time last year. “We had close to 900 kids registered for spring baseball,” he said. “Teams were starting to practice. And then we had to shut down. We offered families three options: refund, credit for future seasons or donation.
Sixty to seventy percent were refunded.”

Games returned with flag football, lacrosse, baseball and softball in September 2020. “It was
outdoors, and people could social distance,” said Ragle. “We closed the stands. People brought chairs and spread out. Coaches and parents wore masks. We put plexiglass at concession stands, and workers wore masks and gloves.”

“Basketball has been a little more difficult,” he continued. “We’ve built ‘buffers’ between games. A team goes out one door, and the next team comes in another door. We check temperatures. People spread out. There are two guests allowed per player.”

Ragle is looking forward to the games this spring. “We’ll have covid guidelines, but it feels good to have a little normalcy,” he said. “There is nothing better than Saturday at the park. It’s a big community down there. We are the only concession stand with an Icee machine, and we have the best cheeseburgers. Saturdays will look a little different this year, but we hope it will look a little like what it used to.”

To keep the games going, Knoxville Youth Sports needs to raise about $100,000 each year. “We’ve started a corporate sponsorship program,” said Ragle. “We’re hoping to identify individuals or businesses to sponsor sports. It costs $10,000-15,000 to sponsor a sport. That covers about half the cost of the sport. You can sponsor a team for $500.”

In addition to seeking sponsorships, Knox Youth Sports is hosting an all day
fundraising event in May, which will include a silent auction at Hecht Pavilion at the small baseball field at Lakeshore.

“We are continuing to grow,” said Ragle. “We hope to offer more sports and be more year round. Our dead period is summer. We might offer camps and clinics. We want to continue to be the best recreation program we can be.”

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