The Kishwaukee Family YMCA has been a fixture in most of Dave Stouffer's life.
"Third or fourth grade is when I came here with some buddies and we were hanging out and had a great time and a great experience," said Stouffer, who is now the sports director at the Y. "As I got into middle school and high school I would come here to work out with my friends."
Stouffer worked his way up through the ranks at the Y and became sports director in 2012. In that role, Stouffer coordinates staff members, practice times and locations, competitions and tournaments, camps and clinics, and logistics for the benefit of the hundreds of children and adults who participate in the various team sports events at the Y.
Stouffer sat down with MidWeek reporter Curtis Clegg to discuss what is involved in keeping things running smoothly with all the organized sports programs at the Y.
MidWeek: How long have you been coming to the Kishwaukee Family YMCA?
Dave Stouffer: I'm from Maple Park, so I grew up going to church in Sycamore and I made a lot of Sycamore friends, and then I had my friends who would come to the Y to work out or they'd come to family nights and Halloween nights and things like that, so that's what got me interested in maybe trying to get a job here. As it turns out a few years later I had a buddy who was a camp counselor and he told me I'd really like it. The Y kind of lined up with all my values I had growing up, going to church and then coming here.
MW: Was the rest of your family as involved with the Y?
DS: They got more active in it when I started working here.
MW: Do you still have kids come to the Y who were coming when you first started here?
DS: Oh yeah, there are more kids around my age now, although I guess we're not kids anymore. They come here to work out, I play volleyball with some of them. ...In soccer and basketball, I have a few buddies who brought their sons and daughters to play too. They think that's really neat.
MW: It sounds like this building has been a big part of your life for most of your life.
DS: Yes, I was here before the Wellness Center was even the Wellness Center, and it was downstairs in the activity center, where we had all of the workout stuff going on. I vaguely remember tennis courts being in here, but that was when I was only 8 or 9.
MW: What do you see your personal mission at the Y being?
DS: I look at it as the (Y's) four core values as the bricks, the base of what we build on here, and from there we go on to build on other areas like social responsibility, healthy living, getting kids active, and developing them as people. We help kids learn that it's OK to lose sometimes because everyone's going to lose, but you learn from those mistakes and you improve on your skills for next time.
MW: Have you always liked working with kids?
DS: At the beginning of my sophomore year of college I was still taking classes and trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and we had the chance to go work at a local elementary school. This was down in Lincoln, Ill. I went out there for the day and really enjoyed it. I talked to my buddy about it - he had worked here the previous summer as a counselor. He said, "If you liked that, you'll definitely enjoy being a camp counselor." I interviewed and then I came here as a camp counselor that summer. It was really great and I learned so much. I was named "camp counselor of the year" that year. It just escalated from there - I was camp counselor for a couple more years then I was promoted to (camp) director, and eventually I came in to being sports director.
MW: What are your duties as sports director?
DS: I'm in charge of sports here at the Y, so that involves putting teams together, finding coaches, finding referees, managing the space, finding practice locations because we do have youth practice for soccer and basketball off-site. I just make sure all that stuff runs smoothly. We have basketball, roller hockey, soccer, racquetball, wallyball, adult roller hockey, adult coed volleyball, youth volleyball. I might be leaving something out but there is always something going on.
MW: Do you work with adults as well?
DS: The highest numbers are with the youth sports, but I do try to stay involved with the roller hockey and racquetball, and we are going to be doing some tournaments this spring. We do wallyball and now they're looking to start up a league with that. For adult coed volleyball, we had the most teams I have ever seen last winter at this time so I am hoping to build on that a little bit.
MW: When does volleyball start?
DS: It starts on Jan. 21.
MW: Do you work at the Barb City site as well?
DS: I have worked over there, before I was sports director I worked in pretty much every department that our Y has to offer so one of the things I did was help get the maintenance department set up over there.
MW: I see you have eight clinic sessions over a two-day period next month. Are those some of the longest days you have at the Y?
DS: I will be here for the volleyball one tonight, we're doing a basketball one tomorrow for all the different age groups, and we're doing a roller hockey one tomorrow afternoon for the two different age groups, and then Sunday afternoon we're doing a soccer one for the different age groups.
MW: How much time do you spend scheduling and re-scheduling events and facilities as opposed to coaching and mentoring kids?
DS: Being in the role I'm in now, it's like I am coaching and mentoring my staff as opposed to the younger kids, and helping them have a bigger impact on the kids. It turns out I'm reaching a lot more people that way, as opposed to having one team or two teams, or one camp or two camps.
MW: How many people do you have working under you?
DS: Depending on the time of year, because it's a little bit slower in the summer, I can have up to 20 to 25 people.
MW: Are your hours pretty crazy?
DS: There is stuff going on here just about 24/7 so you have to make time for your book work and stuff in here, and then be part of the games and practices. Time management is something I'm getting to be a pro at. You just have to prioritize, set those goals, and accomplish them one step at a time.
MW: How have the sports programs and the Y evolved over the years?
DS: I have been here for a little over a year-and-a-half so I have gotten to see how the programs run and things, so with making some tweaks to some of the leagues I'd say things are growing, especially since we had to move practices off-site for soccer and basketball and things like that. There just wasn't enough space (here) to accommodate all the practice times. With the Blackhawks doing as well as they have been doing, our roller hockey has been been more and more popular.
MW: It sounds like you have gone to some effort to find something that appeals to everybody.
DS: Yeah, not everyone likes the same thing and I realize that, so we try to offer a variety of choices. If a kid doesn't like soccer he can try basketball. If he doesn't like basketball maybe he can try roller hockey, and then he might realize he likes soccer after all and go back to it. That's what these free clinics we put on are for - if kids aren't sure if they are going to like a sport, they can come out and give it a try for a day.
MW: How many members does the YMCA have?
DS: I want to say there 11-12,000 units, which can be a single person or it can be a family. ...You have a large portion of the community that's coming here either to work out or attend a class or play a sport.
MW: Do you have any memorable stories of how the YMCA has helped one of its members?
DS: (Laughs) How much time do you have? There isn't a day that goes by where I don't run into somebody who has been impacted by being able to be here at the Y. We have a gentleman who comes here, when he started a couple years ago he weighed over 300 pounds and now he's down to a solid 200, but it's solid muscle and he's part of a bunch of different teams we have here. He's really active and he works out every day.
MW: How does people making New Years resolutions this time of year affect your job?
DS: One thing I look forward to with all these New Years resolutions is you get a lot of people who might not have been out here before, in which case you get to build new relationships and friendships, and hopefully carry that through the year and the next year.
MW: What advice do you have for people who have resolved to get fit or lose weight for the new year?
DS: I'd say the first step would be to stop by the Y. Dave Dick and his Wellness team can do a fitness consultation and discuss what your goals are and lay out a plan. At least come in and find out what all your options are. Like I said, there's something for everyone here. If you want to swim, you can swim. You can lift weights or we have an indoor track in the winter time. ...I always like to encourage people to have a workout buddy. If they don't have their own buddy to work out with, Dave Dick and his Wellness team can make that connection and talk with them and be that motivator.