Play Inc. concerns raised

By John Eisel

Coaches and parents of athletes are concerned Play Inc. isn’t following its bylaws, properly monitoring its finances, and suffers from a general lack of organization.

Officials said they do what they can for the 3,000 to 4,000 Clovis-area residents Play Inc. serves in its youth and adult sports leagues. Volunteers are the core of the 37-year-old program.

More than 60 people attended a Play Inc. meeting March 14 to express their concerns, which included nepotism and conflicts of interest on organization’s governing boards and in-season changes of rules and schedules.

“That was a meeting where people vented,” Play Inc. executive director Steve Muscato said. “Sometimes it’s necessary.”

Play Inc. will hold board elections at its April 11 meeting. There are 10 spots on the executive board and up to 10 spots each on individual sports boards.

Muscato said Play Inc. votes for a new board every year.

“It has always been the same folks that volunteered and wanted to give their time,” said Muscato who makes $33,000 a year as one of two salaried employees.

Play Inc. coach Kelly Tindle said part of the reason the same people volunteer every year is because board meetings and elections are not announced or advertised.

“How do they know how to get on the board when they don’t know when to meet?” Tindle asked.

Muscato said he puts notices into the Clovis News Journal every month for meetings.

“I wasn’t even aware there was a board until a year or so ago,” said Janet Hayler at the meeting. Her daughter, who is in high school, played basketball in the fifth grade.

Tindle said he’s seen things get worse since he started coaching 16 years ago, especially with communication.

“We’re having to answer for Play Inc. as coaches and according to the parents, they weren’t getting the answers,” he said.

“I think they’re very unorganized.”

Muscato said he has an ‘open door policy’ and he tries to address concerns promptly. Muscato said sometimes he doesn’t have an answer for them right away.

“Sometimes we don’t know,” Muscato said. “Bring it to our attention.”

Several residents questioned the makeup of the executive board, which includes Muscato’s father, Frank, and Sammy Herrera, who is also director of the youth football league and a football coach.

“That’s a conflict of interest,” Tindle said.

Herrera admitted he didn’t follow the bylaws when he picked his football board because he wanted dedicated and trustworthy people. He said he’d have no problems with non-coaches on the board, as long as they were committed.

Herrera and Muscato said sport board members must devote a lot of time during the season.

“If we could get some people on the board who aren’t coaches, it’d be perfect,” Herrera said.

Gina Gutierrez, who had a son playing basketball this season, was concerned some of the executive members needed explanation of financial sheets during the March 14 meeting.

“It was obvious that the board hadn’t taken a look or even seen those financials,” she said. “It’s a real concern that each (member) needs to be told what each line-item meant.”

Play Inc.’s operating budget last year was roughly $350,000 and is funded by participation fees.

Executive Board president Andy Sweet said the March 14 meeting was necessary for the health of Play Inc.

“We’re missing the mark right now as a group, in several areas,” Sweet said. “That’s not unusual. I’m sure that happens in a lot of organizations. What matters is what we do with that information.”

Fast Facts
Play Inc. receives its funding from fees. Play Inc. leases playing facilities from the city and Clovis schools.
Basketball and football are the biggest moneymakers, carrying the other 20-plus programs Play Inc. hosts.

Yearly income
July 2002 to June 2003
Football: $45,214
Basketball: $34,956
Total: $348,657

July 2003 to June 2004
Football: 46,859
Basketball: 39,564
Total: 359,901

July 2004 to February
Football: $50,686
Basketball: $38,551
Total: $166,193

Play Inc. executive board
Andy Sweet
Frank Muscato
Jim Barnard
Jim Denton
Patricia Grah
Gene Bieker
Russell Muffley
Larry Sprague
Sheila Holley
Sammy Herrera
Source: Play Inc.