*This story first appeared in The Budget’s July 4, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
The Tuscarawas County YMCA recently welcomed a new staff member to head up its youth sports programs, and she’s drawing on her passion and past experience to help prepare area children for the future.
“There are so many things that sports teach you. It teaches you how to work as a team. It teaches you how to handle adversity, how to handle success the right way, how to manage your time, just all sorts of things that make you a better adult, I think,” said 26-year-old Zita Spoeneman of Canton, who officially began her new role at the local YMCA in late April. “I always say that a coachable kid is a coachable adult in the workplace.”
As the youth sports director, Spoeneman is responsible for overseeing all sports opportunities at the local Y for children ages 3 through sixth-grade including the youth basketball, t-ball, flag football, soccer and swimming programs. “We have sports year-round,” she said.
She also coordinates the local Y’s kids summer camps and youth sports camps as well as Camp Butterfly, a summer camp for kids with special needs. “Pretty much youth and family stuff is my big role here,” she explained. “It’s probably like 70 percent youth sports and 30 percent camps and stuff.”
While she may be young, Spoeneman already has plenty of experience overseeing sports programs and athletic events at the collegiate level.
Prior to joining the team at the YMCA in Dover, Spoeneman spent nearly five years assisting with facility and event operations in the Athletic Department at Kent State University while working toward her Master’s degree in sport and recreation management. During that time, her responsibilities included managing operations for the university’s women’s volleyball and women’s gymnastics teams and coordinating youth summer camps and use of the school’s Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center.
“It was fun. I really, really enjoy the college sports,” she shared. “You get to see a lot of things behind the scene that the average fan doesn’t get to see, what kind of goes into a sporting event, all the logistics be- hind it.”
On the event side of things, Spoeneman’s duties included scheduling concessions, security and event staff and overseeing events all the way through from set-up to tear-down. “You’re kind of the person putting all of the puzzle pieces together to create that whole puzzle,” she explained. “All of those pieces and parts that kind of work together to create the picture that you see when you walk in the arena on game day.”
Spoeneman attributes her own experiences playing sports in her hometown of Madison, Ohio, for cementing the foundation for what would ultimately become her life’s work.
“I did a little bit of basketball, softball, and track in high school. I liked playing flag football with my church youth group, pretty much anything and everything,” she shared. “Even if I wasn’t good at it, I enjoyed playing it.”
Growing up, Spoeneman also took part in youth camps and activities at her hometown YMCA. As an adult, she became a member while living in Wadsworth and credits the organization with helping achieve her fitness goals and shed 100 pounds.
While working out at the Y, Spoeneman said she decided to get back into distance running and began entering area races.
“My first goal was to run a 5K,” she said. “I did that, and it’s kind of like a bug that bites you and you just want to keep going.”
After finishing her first 10K, Spoeneman would go on to train for and complete a half-marathon and then a full marathon before taking on the ultimate running challenge – a 31.1-mile ultra-marathon.
“I’m like, ‘Ok. ‘What’s five more miles if I do a 31.1-mile ultramarathon?’ ” she said. “It turns out that extra five miles really does matter because you don’t think about it, but five miles, depending on your pace, could be another hour running.”
Spoeneman was able to complete the event in 5 hours and 50 minutes, and while she is proud of the accomplishment, she said it’s not necessarily something she would want to do again.
In addition to running and lifting weights, Spoeneman’s hobbies outside of work include hiking, rock climbing, playing and watching sports, playing the drums, swimming, baking and volunteering.
And while her new gig comes with the perk of having her own personal office, you can expect Spoeneman won’t be spending much time there because she’d rather be on the court or in the field hanging out with the kids.
“The biggest thing is just having fun with the kids, teaching them how sports can be fun,” she said. “If you’ re having fun while you’ re playing sports or working out, you don’t really realize that you’re getting a good workout in because it’s so fun. That’s my goal.”
For more information about the Tuscarawas County YMCA and its youth sports programs, call 330- 364-5511, visit tuscymca.org or find @tuscymca on Facebook.