No one is more behind the scenes than Mark King. But behind the scenes is exactly where he wants to stay.
“I’m not one for glory,” King said. “I’m not one for attention. That’s not why I do this. I’m not anyone special. There are a whole lot of people involved in this stuff and it takes a whole community to make all this happen. I don’t do it myself. All I do is oversee it. My position is to keep it running smooth. That’s what I do. I make the ship run smooth. So don’t glorify me. All I am is somebody that cares about kids. I just give my time to make sure they have fun.”
King, who is president of the Sparks Youth Sports Foundation, deserves some recognition though, regardless of how little he wants the spotlight.
As president of the SYSF since 2003, King directs the management of all the fields in Sparks, including maintenance and scheduling.
“Every sports organization in Sparks belongs to the Sparks Youth Sports Foundation, so we kind of oversee all the youth sports in Sparks,” King said. “When I say oversee, I mean from the fields right down to a set of standards and guidelines that we ask each organization to follow as far as background checks on their coaches, training their coaches, keeping the kids safe not just on the fields but from predators and abusers and so forth. It’s basically just to oversee the safety of all kids that play youth sports in Sparks. I want all the kids in Sparks to have a safe and wonderful place to participate in sports.
“We do grass re-sodding for fields all over Sparks. We buy seed for the city of Sparks every year so they can over-seed. We purchase fertilizer so the city can fertilize all of our youth fields and we do cover all the fields that we touch with fertilizer. We also do the permitting of the fields. The city doesn’t deal with any of that. The organizations belong to us so they tell us what their field usage is and what fields they want to use and then we permit the fields.”
Making sure that each and every child receives the same chance in a safe setting is what originally got King interested and involved in the youth sports scene.
“I started out with AYSO soccer 19 years ago as a coach and I was asked to be a representative of AYSO at least 13 years ago,” King said. “Sitting on that board and seeing how operations were run back then, soccer was not a big, well recognized sport here or in the United States. It was just really coming on so when it came down to fields and so forth, soccer kind of got what was left over from everybody else. So I said ‘the only way I’m ever going to change this is to stick around and become a main part of this organization.’
“One of my biggest things of being president of the SYSF is that every child, no matter what sport they play, gets the same opportunity to play on the same fields. That was my main concern, is to make sure that all the kids, no matter what sport they play, got the same usage of facilities as the other sports did. ”
It is King’s desire to create equal chances for all children that led him to help start a soccer league for special-needs children.
“I’ve got a 21-year-old special needs daughter and I helped to start the special needs soccer program in this town along with my wife way back when and to watch the smiles on those kids’ faces, that’s just amazing,” he said. “Soccer’s a great tool for kids. It truly is. Every kid can kick a ball so they can get out there and have fun. All they have to be able to do is kick a ball. So getting a special needs program going for sports was a big moment.”
The smiles and laughter of King’s daughter, Mallery, and her teammates during their practice and games is what King remembers most.
“It was awesome,” King said. “It was the most fulfilling thing. Especially seeing my child, who when she was 2 or 3 years old, we were told she’d never walk, to see her out playing soccer, absolutely awesome. Was she good at it? No, absolutely not, but boy did she have fun. She laughed and had a great time every time she went. She looked forward to putting that uniform on so she could be just like her big brother. We went to all of his games of course and I was coaching, so she was always there and involved. Boy, it was a big thing for her to be able to play.”
As for King’s future as president of the SYSF, he is content sticking around.
“I’ve told them I’ll stay as long as they want me here,” King said. “They’re going to have to vote me out. I don’t know if that will happen because the ones that have been here for a long time say they can’t even imagine what it would be like without me. That’s what they tell me anyway.”
They could be lying to me, but I don’t think so. I’m a people person. I get along with people and I can handle issues.”
With King’s passion and genuine enjoyment of seeing the kids play, he will probably be president for a long time.
“Seeing the smiles on kids’ faces, that’s what it’s about,” King said. “On Saturday mornings when the kids are up at the school above my house and I can walk out in my front yard and hear them cheering and the kids laughing and having a good time, it makes my whole day. I mean that is absolutely what it’s about. There’s never been one day that I haven’t wanted to do what I do.”