Where do you teach manners to a 5-year-old boy, confidence to a 9-year-old girl and money management to a teenager?
Phil Rognier has been teaching these and many other life skills for more than 20 years through baseball. He believes passionately in the power of sports. “Baseball is more a mental game than a physical sport. It’s played in the head,” Phil says. “It requires decision making, problem solving and teamwork.”
The coach equates his love of baseball to a life of happiness. He says the sport helped him build a dynamic life that has included successful careers in education and restaurant management, a happy family and a fulfilling retirement. “I learned how to compete and communicate with people of other ethnicities and persuasion,” Phil recalls. “I learned about myself and my ability to work hard for something I wanted.”
Currently Phil is executive director of FirstSwing, a Washington state non-profit and one of Everett Parks and Recreation’s partners. Starting at age three, FirstSwing offers youth of all abilities opportunities to acquire life skills. Campers learn everything from basic hygiene to financial literacy. But that’s not why more than 600 kids signed up for the Parks program last year. They come to have fun running, hitting, catching, throwing, cheering and being part of something exciting.
“We create a safe environment where it’s fun to learn baseball, softball and life’s little lessons. Kids learn best when it’s fun,” Phil says. “Through sports they get excited about working hard, being responsible, thinking things through and treating others respectfully. That’s important when it comes to being a good citizen.”