Retreating…not at all! Much work to be done….

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by David Humpton, MVF Executive Vice President

The Annual MVF Board Retreat was held on Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14. The retreat is an opportunity for the Board to have discussions about short and long term goals, and review long term financial assumptions that are included in the annual budget and 5-Year Financial Plan. The Board also discusses areas for improvement or enhancements to services or programs. Prior to the retreat, Board members provided specific topics that they would like included on the agenda. The theme of this year’s retreat was the “Future of…” and the Board discussed topics including the future of MVF parks; the future of MVF pools; the future of community development projects; the future of user fee programs, including camps and classes; and the future of Board governance, among others. Discussions at the retreat assist staff in preparing strategic goals included in the upcoming budget and 5-Year Financial Plan.

The Future of…MVF Youth Sports/Camps
I read, with interest, a recent Washington Post article that chronicled a national conference focusing on declining participation in youth sports across the country. This is an issue that our sports program partner, Montgomery Village Sports Association (MVSA) has been dealing with for some time with certain sports such as baseball and softball, and to some extent, lacrosse. The partnership consists of MVSA’s providing coaches and programs, while MVF provides fields and facilities. MVSA does have an outstanding football and volleyball program that many of our youth benefit from, and over the years, the partnership with MVF has remained strong. MVSA leaders and MVF will continue to examine what works and what isn’t working and adjust programs accordingly so as to provide the best alternatives for our young people and their families.

I think that some of the points in the Washington Post article describing why youth sports programs are declining might be applicable to why MVF camp enrollment has declined as well. The MVF Board and staff are reassessing MVF’s camp program for 2017 and beyond because of the decline in camp enrollment over the last couple of years.

What is causing this trend? Are our camps too costly for our residents? Is the too slowly improving economy making it more difficult for parents to send kids to camp? Are more of our young people attending county programs at schools, which are free or very affordable, instead of attending camps? Are more kids being supervised at home and just not attending camps? Are we doing enough marketing of our camps? Are there just more camp options out there for MVF to compete with? Can our camps compete with full-day daycare options? I think it is probably a combination of all these factors, but I am convinced that affordability is a big one.

If you look at the percentage of students in Montgomery Village schools who are eligible for the Free-and Reduced-Priced Meals Program (FARM), it leads me to believe that our changing demographics require us to rethink our camp programs and their pricing. MVF is in stronger financial shape than it has been for a long time, and the Board wants to make sure that we are offering camps and classes that are fun, enriching and affordable, while keeping assessments as low as possible.

If anyone has any suggestions or further insight, please contact me at dhumpton@mvf.org.