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December proved to be a marvelous month for the Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Commission.
In the first weekend of the month, LCPRC saw a pair of youth soccer teams capture state championships at the Manchester Meadows Soccer Complex in Rock Hill. A third county youth all-star soccer team earned recognition with a state tournament consolation victory for a third-place finish.
Those splendid showings would be enough, but in the week to follow, the LCPRC reaped another coveted state honor.
During the annual meeting of the S.C. Parks and Recreation Association’s S.C. Athletic Programs Branch awards program on Dec. 8, the LCPRC earned another state honor at the Tri-City Leisure Center in West Columbia.
Hazel Barnes, a man synonymous with youth sports success in Lancaster County in 28 years of volunteer coaching, drew the spotlight as the S.C. Youth Sports Coach of the Year.
Hal Hiott, the LCPRC athletic director who served on the SCRPA athletic board as the 2010 board president, made the presentation to Barnes.
“It was a great honor to be able to present one of our own coaches as South Carolina Coach of the Year,” Hiott said. “Each year, coaches are nominated from around the state and this year Hazel was the cream of the crop. We are so proud of him and the example he sets for the children in our community.”
The personable Barnes has been a fixture in youth sports, starting as a coach when his children began playing a variety of sports.
He enjoyed working with youngsters so much that he stayed with it long after his children moved on.
“Hazel began coaching his kids at a young age,” Hiott said. “Today, he coaches his grandchildren. It has been an honor to work with such a fine man as Hazel Barnes.”
Barnes has a host of admirable qualities.
“All of his teams are taught more than just the sport he happens to be coaching,” Hiott said. “He stresses the game of life, good study habits and respect for elders and your teammates.”
Barnes, certified through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, has coached all ages and levels throughout the program, including baseball and basketball.
He also volunteers with the Lancaster Youth Golf Association. He has won district and state tournament titles.
“Hazel has a good outlook on what impact a volunteer coach imparts,” said Frank Overcash, who attended the awards program prior to his retirement as the LCPRC director at the end of the month.
“Hazel has been there for a lot of kids,” Overcash said. “Hazel has turned around a lot of kids over the years.”
He’s done it with tough love and positive encouragement – whatever it took at the time.
“What I really like about Hazel is he competes and wants to win, but he knows the game is temporary and there’s more than the final score,” Overcash said. “Playing the game of life goes on and on. He has a good outlook on life and shares it in his coaching style.”
Obviously, that style is quite familiar here, and deservedly so, it has earned statewide recognition.
We salute his impacting our youth in a positive way and wish him the best in his coaching future.