Well attended but not always well lauded, the Poinciana YMCA becomes a haven for local kids.

Members of the Association of Poinciana Villages celebrate the ribbon cutting on the new football field at Vance Harmon Park. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

POINCIANA – For Shawn Traylor, the excitement of a basketball game doesn’t come from the sense of stiff competition, from rooting for your team or watching a game go down to the buzzer.
The real glory of it, he said, is about watching the kids he’s coached discover the excitement and joy of being part of the game.
“We have some kids who have had major medical conditions who go over and above what’s expected, and have succeeded at playing basketball,” Traylor said. “It’s just a great way to go out and have a good time without it being divisive in any way.”
Traylor is a volunteer basketball coach at the Poinciana YMCA. He feels the youth-oriented programs available at the Y deserve a lot more recognition, because the center has helped so many young people find an outlet for their athletic skills and given them a winning ability to socialize with others.
“For me personally, it’s a joy to work with the kids. It’s a blast,” Traylor said. “For the community, it’s a great way to come out and support these kids.”
A frequent complaint in Poinciana has been that this community of 75,000 people grew rapidly in the past decade, as more and more homes got build to accommodate the newcomers moving in. But Poinciana’s transformation into a bedroom community left a burning need for more recreational activities, particularly for young people.
The Association of Poinciana Villages – the homeowners association that supervises the 10 villages in this community that cuts across Polk and Osceola counties – has experienced some recent successes. The APV recently celebrated the opening of the community’s first football field at Vance Harmon Park, and also the opening of a new Boys & Girls Club Teen Center.
The Poinciana YMCA is older, and has been around for several years, helping young people by giving them activities after school, on the weekends, and in the summer months – like the basketball games that Traylor coaches. He said anyone not involved in this games is missing just how important they are to the community’s youth.
“Basically the YMCA basketball league is a developmental league,” he said. “You have children who come in there, and some are good at athletics, and some are not. But it’s not as important who wins or loses, so much as having a love for the game, and to just build a stronger community. And basically, we have achieved all that.”
Jeanette Coughenour, manager of the APV, agreed.
“We’re doubly blessed to have not just the YMCA, but also the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center’s presence here,” she said. “Like everyone else in this challenging economy, the Y struggles because we have so many families that don’t have the wherewithal to participate, but our YMCA alone gave out almost $50,000 in scholarships to families and children who couldn’t afford to participate. We’re thrilled to have them here and we want them to flourish.”
And it isn’t just teens and young people who benefit, she added.
“There’s also the programs they have for adults – exercising, yoga, and the wellness center they offer,” she said.
For the adults who volunteer at the YMCA, Traylor added, it’s also a great opportunity to mentor young people.
“We’re developing stronger relationships,” he said. “They’ve been doing children’s athletic programs for as long as they took over the community building. I’ve seen them offer flag football, I’ve seen them offer tball. They have a lot of programs for developing kids. The overall mode of operation is that they’re really trying to keep kids safe and get them to enjoy athletics and be good sportsmen.”
And what he sees in the kids is an enthusiasm and excitement about being there and participating in the game.
“The kids that I have practicing, they absolutely love the game,” he said. “They are super eager. Everybody wants to jump in the game. They’re all smiles. They have a great time and they improve their basketball skills.
“Working with the kids,” he added, “it keeps sports more pure. It’s not about the money. It’s not about winning. It’s about getting together, enjoying the game. It’s a chance to compete and have a good time. I enjoy it quite a bit.”
On Saturday, Aug. 20, the league will have its final game of the season, starting at 11:30 a.m. Traylor is encouraging parents to turn out and support their kids – and to support the YMCA and what it does.
“This Saturday is the final game of the season,” he said. “We’ll play our final game like we always do. That won’t be any different. After the game, the kids will get their participation trophies. It’s a nice time and it gives the kids a sense of accomplishment.”

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