New YMCA Sports Commissioner is excited about organization’s future

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 11/4/20

ORANGE PARK – The First Coast YMCA’s new sports commissioner hopes to make the YMCA home to the county’s best recreational and competitive sports.

Burt Cannon was the operations director at …

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New YMCA Sports Commissioner is excited about organization’s future

Posted

ORANGE PARK – The First Coast YMCA’s new sports commissioner hopes to make the YMCA home to the county’s best recreational and competitive sports.

Burt Cannon was the operations director at the Orange Park Dye-Clay YMCA for six years before he became the new sports commissioner. While the position is new, YMCA sports have been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. He was born and raised in Clay County and has lived here for 41 years. This new position was a natural progression for him within the YMCA.

“I played soccer and basketball here as a kid at the YMCA and then started working there at 16 years old,” Cannon said. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Cannon recalled being 16 and hearing about how his friends were going to turn in resumes at the Dye-Clay YMCA. Wanting to join in, he created a resume and applied, not realizing that decision that day would affect the next 25 years of his life. One of the best parts of his time with the YMCA, Cannon said, is teaching generations.

He’s coached children who grew up to have their own children, and then he taught those children as well. That eventually led to him becoming the sports director of Clay County around 2001. He remained in that position for nearly 14 years where he helped shape the sports programs at the YMCA. He helped bring even more people to the YMCA’s many sports programs like basketball, soccer, flag football and volleyball.

He said the YMCA has traditionally focused on the recreational side of things but as society has shifted towards parents and their children specializing on a single sport, likely for the chance to get a college scholarship one day by perfecting a single sport rather than many, the organization has seen more competitive-minded athletes leave.

“They look elsewhere for more competition,” Cannon said. “We’ve always been more recreational but one thing I look forward to shaping is our initiative toward the competitive side of sports.”

Cannon said the YMCA is still dedicated to the recreational, trait-building sports programs offered. He said it’s one of the many benefits of choosing the YMCA over other sports programs. Every athlete is guaranteed to play at least half a game, and besides sports-oriented learning, everyone is taught leadership and communication skills to create a more well-rounded athlete. That’s what the YMCA’s sports have always been about, Cannon said.

Cannon will oversee the sports of five First Coast counties: Clay, St. Johns, Nassau, Baker and Duval County. He’ll help shape these counties and their respective YMCA sports into a more cohesive unit that offers similar sports programming.

“It’s definitely exciting to try and duplicate what I’ve done in Clay County elsewhere,” Cannon said. “That’s really the joy of this job. I’m going to be working with all of these counties and each of their regional directors to help elevate the experience for everyone involved.”

Cannon is especially excited to shape the future of YMCA sports, like its inclusion of e-sports, or in other words, competitive video gaming. He said esports will be getting a bigger focus in 2020 and that he’s excited to work on that sector of YMCA sports. He’ll be doing what he’s done for most of his working career until then: making YMCA sports and the general YMCA experience the best on the First Coast.

“I definitely feel that with us being about the community, we want everyone to play and have fun,” Cannon said. “Well I think that with me, I always strive to have the best communication skills and that’s going to be my goal with this position – to really spread communication and community to the other regional directors and other counties of the First Coast YMCA. Above all of that, I’m going to work toward ensuring that every child has a great experience no matter the sport they play with us.”

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