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Opportunities to get moving on tap for Tiffin starting this fall

New rec. director lays out plans for the city’s first ever recreational programming
Frank Haege, recreation director, City of Tiffin.

TIFFIN– He had high hopes.
When Frank Haege packed up his family in Minnesota and moved to Solon (where his wife is from and has extended family), it was with the intention of starting a first-ever recreation department for the City of Tiffin. Haege’s first day on the job was Monday, April 13, and shortly after arriving in Tiffin, he said “I am really looking forward to working with all of the existing recreational groups in the area.”
And, he had a simple goal for the residents of Tiffin, “Get people moving.”
But then the 2019 novel coronavirus struck and proclamations from Gov. Kim Reynolds effectively shut down the state of Iowa, including schools (venues for recreational programming) and prohibiting gatherings. Haege’s summer sports and recreational programs were put on the shelf.
“I worked from home and spent a lot of time talking with people from other rec. departments researching what other people are doing, figuring out what sports are here in the area, what aren’t, what’s popular, what’s not, and where we could fit in,” he said.
Haege planned to start out with summer baseball tournaments on the city’s diamonds. “But of course, those all got cancelled. We decided to open things up as the Governor did, after July 1. So, we opened up the fields for practices and scrimmages, and eventually games.” The first tournament this year was held on Saturday, July 11, and Sunday, July 12, as the Positive Sports Alliance (PSA) rented the city’s baseball complex for the weekend.
Barring any new virus-related shutdowns, Haege plans to roll out a brand-new slate of programming this fall.
“We decided we wanted to start two youth programs, one is mostly boys, one is mostly girls, so we’re going with flag football and volleyball. Kind-of low-hanging fruit, and the most popular,” he said. But, he noted, there’s a lot of competition with programs in North Liberty, Coralville and Iowa City.
Haege is also going to offer an adult coed softball league as well. “Again, people can play softball in Coralville, North Liberty, Iowa City, so we’re going to work to try and get some teams in that.” Plans are also afoot for adult exercise classes and yoga, as well as what he called “penalty box fitness,” which is an agility program. There also will be a 55-plus seniors’ weight training class.
“Right now, we’re in the marketing phase, getting letters, emails and social media out to try and get people to come in,” he explained. “It’s a new thing, and anytime you have a new anything, you’re always a little apprehensive about ‘What’s that? What’ll that be like?’ So, it takes a little adventurism for people to jump in. We’ll see.”
His goal is for 50 flag football players, 50 volleyball players, four softball teams, and at least 10 in each activity class. “If we can hit those numbers, we’ll feel good about it. And if we don’t, that’s fine, we’ll reevaluate what we can offer to the citizens of Tiffin in the future.”
For flag football, Haege is planning on three teams: first and second graders, third and fourth graders, and fifth and sixth graders. “We’re actually playing in the Coralville-North Liberty league,” he said. “They’re going to be part of the NFL flag football umbrella, so one team will be the Bears, another will be the Packers, they’ll wear NFL jerseys, NFL flags, play with NFL balls.” He’s hoping for at least two teams in each level. Youth volleyball will have two levels, third and fourth graders, and fifth and sixth graders. They, too, will play in the Coralville-North Liberty league, and Haege noted, “That, so far, has been our most popular sign-up online.” He added both boys and girls are welcome to sign up for either sport.
Haege said the city is working on an agreement with the Clear Creek Amana Community School District (CCA) to rent or share some facilities, such as gyms. Yoga might be held at City Hall in the large meeting room/council chamber, and the city already has its own soccer, football and baseball/softball facilities.
“We are partnering with AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) Soccer,” he explained. “They run it, we help advertise it and take care of the fields, they rent the fields, they’ve been here for a long time so we decided to partner with them.” Haege said such partnerships are common among recreational programs, especially with the large number (300-plus) of players involved. “Soccer is the new de facto sport that every kid tries,” he said. “It seems like every boy, every girl, kindergarten, first grade, they go through the Little Kickers program. It used to be baseball and softball were the sports everyone tried, but now it’s soccer.”
Haege acknowledged continued up-ticks in COVID-19 cases could trigger another shutdown, and if it happens, “We’ll just refund or credit everybody’s account, I’m sure most people would understand, and we’ll comply with what the State of Iowa does, and the governor’s orders.”
A community recreation center has been proposed, and plans were to begin work on it this year, however, it has been pushed back to where Haege is hopeful it will come to fruition within the next five years.
“Ideally kids would just ride their bikes to practice, and ride them home and have dinner rather than having to drive all over the place. That’s one of the attractions of having a local rec. program, local sports, and the adults can stay in town, too, so we’re hoping to provide that for the community, and they buy-in.”
This winter, Haege plans to offer boys’ and girls’ basketball along with more activities classes for the adults based on what’s popular and in-demand. “I’d like to have a walking club if we can secure an area, maybe in the high school,” he said. He’s also exploring the possibility of adult volleyball. “I’m from Minnesota so I’d love to have ice hockey, but we have no plans for a rink yet. Maybe someday.” Next spring, baseball and softball will most likely be on tap. “Eventually I’d like to get into some more non-traditional sports like Ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, things that just aren’t as readily available. But, that’s easier said than done, too. You’ve got to find somebody that has a passion for it. But we’ll start with the basics everyone is familiar with and go from there based on interest from the community.” Sometimes, he said, “Activities have to come to you, like if somebody in town has a passion for lacrosse, maybe they come to you and you try to help them get something going.”
Details and registration information can be found on the recreation department’s website, https://www.tiffiniowarecreation.com. For additional questions, Haege can be reached by email at fhaege@tiffin-iowa.org, by phone at 612-206-4342 or by calling City Hall at 319-545-2572.