What happened to participation in inner-city high school football {front page, Nov. 1} is no mystery to me. I believe the decreased participation runs concurrently with the city's decision to close many community playgrounds.

When I was growing up in the '60s, each area of the city had a D.C. Recreation Department playground where kids went after school, on weekends and all summer long to play ball. I don't mean just a blacktop with baskets or a dusty field with "uprights"; I mean a fully staffed facility with regular hours, adult supervisors and a well-stocked supply of sports equipment. Working at such facilities provided hands-on training for many of the physical education majors at area community colleges and universities.

Kids started coming to the playgrounds when they were 8 or 9 years old. Separate programs based on age groups were run at each facility, and kids competed with corresponding age groups at other facilities. In so doing, they developed pride in themselves and in the facility, loyalty and a competitive spirit.

The men and women who staffed the facilities served as role models and were greatly respected by the kids. A lot of the kids came from broken homes and needed and wanted the positive influence provided by these adults. The kids had somewhere to go, something to do and good times galore.

We had crime in the city then, too, and trouble we could have gotten into, but the adults who supervised the playgrounds kept us engrossed in seeing how we could excel in organized sports. We carried what we learned with us to the various junior high and high schools in the inner city and expanded on it.

The children are still there. Is anyone there for them?