Manuel off to a busy start: New recreation director has big plans for St. John Parish

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 1, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / April 1, 2000

LAPLACE – It has been a busy first two weeks for new St. John the BaptistParish Recreation Director Errol Manuel.

The department played host to the St. John Warriors Invitational basketballtournament last weekend at East St. John High School. Two of the parish’sall-star Biddy Basketball teams are preparing to go to state and national tournaments.

Manuel has had a number of visitors, including members of the parish council, stop by the department, now located in a trailer behind the Percy Hebert Building. Registration is currently being held for the parish’s baseball,softball and T-ball leagues. Manuel is also working to have lights installed on asecond ball field at Regala Park as well as getting the other fields in shape.

But for Manuel, it’s a job he has been preparing fort since his college days.

Manuel is a local product, having graduated from Lutcher High School in 1982 where he lettered in baseball and basketball. He went on to letter four yearsin baseball at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas, and was named all- conference his junior and senior seasons. He graduated in 1988 with a degreein recreation.

For the past three years, Manuel served as the athletic director at Lutcher Junior High. He has also been involved in the recreation programs in a numberof capacities.

“Sports have been a part of my life since I could walk,” Manuel said.

“Baseball, football, basketball, coaching, refereeing, umpiring, anything dealing with sports, I did. I’m a sports fanatic. I’ve always been around sportsin some way, shape or form.”Manuel originally applied for the job of recreation director when Louis Lipps was relieved of the job by then-parish president Arnold Labat in 1998. Heapplied again this year after Nickie Monica became the parish president and was looking for a recreation director.

“I stayed persistent,” Manuel said. “I was patient with it and it was a dreamcome true.”Manuel, who started in the position March 20, said he will bring his organizational skills to the job as well as people’s person personality. He saidhe is also a stickler for rules and that the department will not overturn any rules to help any particular team. Currently, he gives the (See MANUEL, Page 9A) …from Page 8Adepartment a “C-,” but that it is in the process of being upgraded.

“We are doing some things at Regala right now as we speak,” Manuel said.

“We are hoping to light up another ballfield. We are in the process ofregistration for baseball and right now we have 28 teams. We are startinggirls’ softball and registering for T-ball.

“We are trying to bring new programs to the parish for the kids and we are also starting, hopefully in the next month or so, our church softball league.

Right now, there are no athletic programs for adults and we want to kick it off with that.”Manuel said there are also plans to have flag football, volleyball and basketball for the church league as well as the open leagues. And perhapsdown the line, he said, there will be over-30, over-40 and co-rec leagues. Forseniors, he wants to add more programs to the bowling leagues currently in existence. Manuel said a year from now, he wants the department to be on anational level.

“We are in the middle of St. Charles and St. James and they have goodrecreation programs,” Manuel said. “I would like for us to have those typesof programs. I want us to be able to host national tournaments, statetournaments. I said we are at a “C-” now. A year from now, I want us to beat an “A+”. The only way to do that is to get your programs going and havegood facilities.”Currently the department is operating eight parks (seven on east bank, one on west bank) and nine ball fields. The plan is to centralize the little leagueprogram at Regala Park. Games will be played on Mondays and Wednesdays.Manuel feels that will help in finding umpires for games and also allows for traveling teams to play on the weekends. The league is scheduled to beginMay 6 with a tournament.

Manuel said the parish summer program will be held again this year. He alsonoted that the swimming pools at Regala and in Edgard will be open, probably in June.

“We want everybody to enjoy the pools, from little kids to adults,” Manuel said.

“We’re going to make an impact. We’re going to make an impact for the kids,for adults, for young adults. We’re going to draw them into our program. “Somy philosophy for recreation is that we are going to make an impact.”Manuel also talked about two of the problems that have haunted the department in the past – the getting of volunteers to help out and its relationship with the council.

“The only way you can encourage volunteers is through your adult programs,” Manuel said. “Once you put together your programs for theadults, they will say I want to volunteer. All of the booster clubs havevolunteers, which is good because they help out too. But we want morepeople to volunteer. We’re also getting help from the high school studentsbecause they have to have 40 hours of community service. That is thecornerstone of any department – volunteers.”As for the council, Manuel said he has been given its full support.

“It’s been a good working relationship,” Manuel said. They have been verycooperative. I have their full support.”Manuel said he will also be working with the recreation advisory board which meets the first Monday of every month. A meeting of the board will be heldthis Monday at 7 p.m. at the Percy Hebert Building.Manuel said three things are needed to make the department work – volunteers, community support and new programs for youngsters and adults.

As for the importance of recreation to the community, he points to a sign he created during his junior year in college.

“Recreation’s purpose is not to kill time, but to make time live; not to keep a person occupied but to keep them refresh; not to offer an escape from life, but to provide a discovery of life.”

Return To Sports Stories

Copyright © #Thisyear# Wick Communications, Inc.Best viewed with 4.0 or higher