An Amarillo Institution for Kids and Parents Alike
Ask any Amarillo athlete when they began playing competitive sports and you’ll hear the same answer: Kids, Inc. It doesn’t matter the sport. And it doesn’t matter the athlete. It could be a Division I volleyball player or a state champion sprinter, a highly touted baseball prospect or a once-in-a-generation football or basketball talent. Statistically, all of them are likely to have first worn an “official” sports uniform on an elementary school team courtesy of Kids, Incorporated.
Like so many other Amarillo institutions, Kids, Inc. originated in the mind of Cal Farley, a successful local business owner and radio host.
During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Farley and two colleagues had noticed that Amarillo’s streets seemed to be overrun by unsupervised boys. They created the Maverick Club to address the delinquency problem.
A few years later, in 1939, Farley created Boys Ranch for boys who came from broken or destabilized homes.
By the end of World War II, the Maverick Club was operating at full capacity but Farley was still seeing too many boys with nothing to do but get in trouble after school. So in 1945, he and a few friends decided a city sports program could provide a solution to that problem. Farley enlisted C.C. “Bus” Dugger, a young salesman and a former college athlete, to help him with the project. At the time, Farley was calling it the Amarillo Recreation Association.
With Dugger acting as the first coach, the duo recruited 11 boys from Glenwood Elementary School to form the “Glenwood Basketeers” (see photo top left). The team practiced after school and began to play other basketball teams from the Maverick Club, Boys Ranch and even a team from Channing, Texas.
Before long, the organization had been renamed Kids, Incorporated and teams were forming across the city. The Amarillo Globe newspaper began publishing game results and player statistics in its Sports section. Farley told the newspaper that “if you give a boy a ball to chase, he will stay out of trouble.” The organization expanded to include girls, of course, and soon offered a full roster of sports.
Kids, Incorporated had arrived. It remains an Amarillo institution.
Tens of thousands of Amarillo children have now grown up playing Kids, Inc. sports. Participants play flag and tackle football, volleyball, and outdoor soccer in the fall, followed by basketball in the winter. School-based cheerleading squads root for the players. The spring months bring indoor soccer, track, tennis, T-ball, softball, and another outdoor soccer season.
Last year, 2020, was supposed to be the organization’s long-awaited 75th anniversary celebration. The pandemic dampened that milestone, of course, and Kids, Inc. had to cancel its spring season, resulting in $400,000 of lost revenue. Thankfully, the organization was able to resume activities last summer and has fully returned to normal today.
Beyond “staying out of trouble,” today’s players continue to get exercise, deepen friendships, and learn good sportsmanship on Kids, Inc. teams.
But the community benefit isn’t limited to boys and girls. The organization also serves as an early opportunity for players’ parents to volunteer in the community. Moms and dads serve as coaches and even officials for the youngest participants. Regardless of the sport, these parents become early mentors and examples for the young athletes on their teams.
“Not all kids have that,” says Jimmy Lackey, Kids, Inc. president and CEO, who has been with the organization since 1995. “That’s why our coaches have such a tremendous opportunity to be an adult mentor to young kids. In this day and time, they need adult mentorship more now than ever. For those kids that don’t always have that [example] at home, coaches can play a big role in their lives.”
He says the program simply wouldn’t exist without its volunteer coaches, but also points out that involvement in Kids, Inc. is beneficial for players’ families—even if they’re just spectators or providing post-game refreshments. “You make friends with the other parents,” Lackey says. “Those can become lifelong relationships. I like to tell families to take advantage of our games. You’re supporting that kid on the field or the court, and there are a lot of life lessons involved in that. But you’ll also make some of the very best friends you’ll ever have the rest of your life.”
Kids, Inc. fields teams all year long for public elementary and middle schools in Amarillo, Canyon and Hereford, along with schools in surrounding school districts including Bushland, River Road and Highland Park. Private schools also participate. To donate to the organization, form a team, register a player, or otherwise get involved as a coach or volunteer, visit kidsinc.org.