First Posted: 3/10/2015
HAMLET — Parks and Recreation Director Maurice McLaurin has a passion for sports and kids, and in his first month on the job, he already has big plans he intends to knock out of the ballpark.
“The first month’s been going well, I’m learning the ins and outs,” McLaurin said. “Mr. Jerry Lamont has been showing me a lot. He was the interim director before I got here, so he has fallen back to assistant. I’ve gotten a lot of support from him, the city and the city of Hamlet employees.”
McLaurin said his previous experience working as program coordinator for at-risk youth programs at Leak Street Cultural Center shaped the direction he wants to take as parks and recreation director.
“I was running two programs; Project Focus, which is an afterschool program, and I had an assistant who was running a restitution and community service program. We were just trying to reach out to at-risk youth in Richmond County.”
A lifelong resident of Richmond County and native of Rockingham, McLaurin remembers his school days and the importance of sports during his formative years. Although he grew to love a variety of sports from an early age, he said it was his father who first encouraged him to play.
“I used to watch it but I never really liked to play,” McLaurin said. “But my father sort of forced me to. And then I won the championship my first season and then I played basketball and the same thing happened, I won the championship my first year playing and it just skyrocketed from there.”
McLaurin played ball as a child on the fields he now oversees, played for Richmond Senior High School and later majored in sports management at Livingstone College in Salisbury.
He had an opportunity to play Division III football at another college, but he had other ideas for his future by then and had already fallen out of love with playing football. Basketball is now his favorite sport.
“We just had a budget meeting last Friday and the first thing I want to do is increase participation of kids in our programs,” McLaurin said. “I want more kids to be involved in parks and rec. Once I get that done, I want to enhance the programs we already have here, the football basketball baseball and soccer, just enhance those programs to the best of our abilities and bring the best that we can to the city of Hamlet.”
McLaurin said his connections with at-risk youth and support from city employees has helped him spread the word.
“Gail Strickland has reached out to the schools here already, and I want to tap into some of our resources I had when I was working with at-risk youth,” he said. “I think I can target that population. The need for them to be involved in extracurricular activities is great. When I was doing that, I found out that kids who were playing sports and were involved in activities after school were too busy to go out and get into trouble.
“I want to get all the youth I can involved in something. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be sports. It could be just something occupying their time, not running the streets doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”
McLaurin learned a lot about reaching youth and how to let them know you’re on their side.
“If you talk to kids in a calm and respectful manner, they respond in a more genuine way,” McLaurin said. “They open up more and start talking to you about things you wouldn’t know if you just came up and talked to them like you don’t know them. Once kids get comfortable with you and get to know you, they get more confident with you and they really open up.”
Some of the long-range projects McLaurin wants to implement are in the conceptual stage, he said, and the city’s budget planning meetings last week gave him an opportunity to introduce them.
“I’d like to get better parking for nights when we have ballgames going on,” McLaurin said. “This gym has been here about 32 years if I’m not mistaken, and it needs some touch-ups. We need to touch up a lot of things at our parks. I think that slowly but surely, we’ll get those things done.”
Aside from sprucing up facilities within Hamlet Parks and Recreation, McLaurin brought revenue-generating ideas to the table during the budget retreat.
“Some other things I want to do is bring new revenue streams to Hamlet,” he said. “I’d like to start an over-30 basketball league, flag football league, volleyball league maybe and yoga. Because we have not just youth but also adults in the city of Hamlet and out in Richmond County who some of these things appeal to, and I want to include that population as well.”
Baseball registration began Feb. 23 and is open through April 10 and costs $30 per child. The pitching machine league is for children ages 5-8, and the Cal Ripken League for ages 9-12.
Late registration, held April 13-17 will cost $40 per child.
“They can register online at www.hamletnc.us,” McLaurin said. “They just need to go the ‘Departments’ tab, then scroll down to Parks and Recreation to find out how. They can also register at Hamlet City Hall during regular business hours. I hope to see a lot of kids there.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.