story and photography by Jonas Holt

Broad, tree-lined streets and a historic old town district that appears lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting give the city of La Verne an aura of unhurried charm and tranquility. Which, although true enough, is not the whole picture. For on most any weekend in this sometimes-not-so-quiet city, something is being kicked, thrown, batted or caught. Sports—in particular, youth sports—are thriving here.

“Participation in youth sports extends far beyond the boundaries of the playing field. It’s a holistic journey that nurtures physical health, social skills, and emotional well-being,” La Verne Mayor Tim Hepburn says. “Through the camaraderie of teammates and the guidance of coaches, children learn invaluable lessons in discipline, perseverance and sportsmanship.”

From basketball courts to soccer fields, from baseball diamonds to running tracks, the city’s commitment to youth sports is evident in every enthusiastic cheer and determined stride.

The physical activity inherent in sports helps combat sedentary lifestyles, reducing the risk of obesity and promoting overall well-being.

“At the heart of La Verne’s youth sports scene is a deep sense of community,” Mayor Hepburn says. “It’s important for youth sports in our city; we’ve made friendships that have lasted 30, 40 years and we still are together as families. It keeps the kids in a safe environment under parental supervision, keeps them in a sport that’s just fun and good for exercise, and keeps them healthy. It’s a great thing.”

Programs offered by the Community Services Department, under the stewardship of individuals like Chad Peterson and Jesse Cervantes, serve as catalysts for connection and collaboration.

Through leagues and tournaments, residents of all ages come together to support and celebrate the talents of their young athletes. These events not only promote physical activity but also strengthen bonds among neighbors, creating a tight-knit community fabric that transcends generations.

“The lessons learned on the field extend far beyond sports,” Hepburn says. “As adults and coaches, we make sure that the kids are doing what they need to do. Not just in sports, but also in how to behave, how to get along with other kids and how to work hard.”

“Playing in the La Verne Little League was where my love for baseball truly ignited,” says University of La Verne graduate student and pitcher Jerry Terry. “It’s where I learned the fundamentals, made lifelong friends, and discovered the thrill of competition right here in my hometown.”

Terry has had one of the most successful and decorated baseball careers in the history of the Leopards, being named Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference pitcher of the year in 2023. “Transitioning from Little League to collegiate baseball at the University of La Verne has been an incredible journey. Representing my community on the field has been an honor, and I’m grateful for the support of my coaches, teammates and fans throughout my collegiate career.”

Contrary to the idea that sports is a distraction from academics, participation in youth sports often correlates with enhanced academic performance. Educators and parents observe how the discipline and time management skills learned through sports translate into the classroom, leading to improved focus and greater overall success.

“Educators and parents in La Verne observe how the discipline and time management skills learned through sports translate into the classroom, leading to improved focus, higher grades, and greater overall success,” Hepburn explains. “The sense of achievement derived from athletic accomplishments boosts children’s confidence and motivation to excel in all areas of their lives.”

Behind every successful youth sports program in La Verne lies a dedicated army of volunteers and mentors. From coaches and referees to older athletes who serve as role models, these individuals selflessly give their time and expertise to nurture the next generation of champions. Their mentorship goes beyond the technical aspects of the game, instilling values of integrity, sportsmanship and empathy in young athletes, shaping them into responsible citizens and compassionate leaders.

While La Verne’s youth sports scene thrives, it’s not without its challenges. Access barriers, funding constraints, and logistical hurdles often threaten to hinder the progress of these programs. Yet solutions are often found through innovation, collaboration and unwavering community support. Whether through scholarship initiatives, partnerships with local businesses, or grassroots fundraising efforts, the community rallies to ensure that every child has the opportunity to pursue their athletic dreams.

Amid the challenges and triumphs, there are countless stories of individual athletes and teams who have defied the odds and achieved remarkable success through their involvement in youth sports. From overcoming adversity to reaching unprecedented heights, these stories inspire and uplift the entire community, reminding us of the transformative power of sports in shaping young lives.

In La Verne, youth sports are more than just games, they’re a cornerstone of community identity, a source of pride and a beacon of hope for generations to come. As children lace up their cleats, grab their rackets and take to the fields and courts, they’re not just playing sports, they’re embarking on a journey of self-discovery, camaraderie and endless possibilities. o

Jonas Holt is a senior journalism major at the University of La Verne.