Sometimes an operation runs so smoothly for so long that we take it for granted. Look more closely, though, and you’ll find totally committed and resourceful volunteers behind the scenes, making it look easy. The youth (and hundreds of not-so-young-anymore former players) of the Peachtree League know that the enduring success of youth sports in Crozet owes a lot to the energy and long-term guidance of Cheryl Madison, the League’s president, who’s held that position for 17 years, as well as leadership roles for a decade before that.
For 27 Years She’s Been the Heart of the Peachtree League
There are ups and downs, to be sure. One huge “up” moment was when the 12U softball team won the program’s first-ever Babe Ruth State Champions last summer after two seasons as runners-up. The difficulties aren’t as dramatic: never enough sponsors, enough fields, enough umpires, enough coaches. These are the issues that occupy a good bit of Cheryl Madison’s time and require a number of special skills. One day she’s counting uniforms and the next, she’s making a presentation before the Crozet Community Advisory Council. Even after 27 years, she believes it’s worth it.
It started with her childhood. Most of her life, Madison has lived in Crozet, and one of her happy memories of growing up here is playing pick-up softball games with her friends around the neighborhood. Besides softball, she’s an avid watcher of baseball (she loves the Yankees) and especially likes college-level ice hockey and football.
Naturally, Madison also wanted her children to enjoy local sports, and several decades ago, when Chris, her older son, played ball, she got involved with the Peachtree League. Now, 27 years later, she’s running the league. Fun is not the only reward for young people in physical competition, though, she said. “Sports teach several lifetime skills, including leadership, responsibility, resilience, and teamwork.”
She didn’t jump immediately from being “team mom”––the one who makes sure the children have their helmets, gloves and bats––to being president of the league. There were several steps along the way that prepared her for the demands of organization, energy, diplomacy, communication and the mind-boggling logistics required to manage a fast-growing enterprise with hundreds of moving parts.
From team mom she moved on to becoming publicity director, a key position created to make sure families are aware of everything going on in the league. She’s the one responsible for initiating a league email system, making it possible to keep everyone informed as the size of the league grew and grew.
When the president stepped down seventeen years ago, Madison volunteered for the job and has led the league ever since. The growth of the area and the influx of families made the job even more complicated. Two major side effects of rapid growth: the current shortage of umpires and the challenges of finding field space. “With more kids playing in our area,” Madison said, “we are thrilled, but we’ve had to get creative with the field space to accommodate the growth.”
She’s also found that, as busy as she is during the season, her duties don’t end once the playing fields are closed for the winter. While the young players and their families take a break, Madison and her volunteers switch to planning mode for the upcoming season, she said. “There’s no such thing as an off-season for us.”
Why does she do it? She’s quick to say that she loves her volunteer job, partly for the community connection it’s given her. “One of the things I cherish most about my job at Peachtree is getting to know the families,” she said.
“Volunteering there has allowed me to make many lifelong friends, and for that, I am truly grateful.”
Even after decades of being involved, Madison still gets a thrill from seeing the results of her work. Most of her life revolves around young people. Her paying job is as an at-home child caregiver. “I find it incredibly rewarding to witness the joy on the children’s faces when they receive their uniforms, or when they finally succeed in hitting a ball or catching a ball,” she said. “Their smiles make all the hard work worthwhile.”
She’s been in this position so long that she sees former players step up: “It’s neat to see people who played in the league starting to come back and volunteer with their own kids,” she said.
Madison said she’s grateful for everyone who helps in any way. “My husband is my greatest supporter,” she said. “And he always encourages me to keep doing what I love.” She also acknowledges the support of the members of the Peachtree Board and their ability to work together to make sure the kids have the best possible experience.
In the end, it’s an operation that needs a much wider volunteer base than those in charge, involving dozens of Crozet-area supporters. “Our league is fortunate to have the support of our community, who step up each year to sponsor teams.” Thanks to them, she said, every one of the 45 or more teams fielded each year has the name of a sponsor on the back of their jerseys.
Want to help as the Peachtree League plans for the upcoming session? Cheryl Madison has a job for everyone. Anyone is welcome, she said, whether it’s sponsoring teams or sponsoring concession and field signs. Active participation on every level is always needed. She invites the Crozet community to volunteer as head coaches, assistant coaches, or umpires.
Potential umpires can contact Marc McKenney at [email protected].
Other volunteers can visit peachtreebaseball.com, and click on the coaching interest form.