Feature Article - June 2008
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School Days

A Look at Trends in Recreation and Sports in Schools & School Districts

As the tide of obesity continues to sweep over America's children, schools and school districts are joining the battle, when they can. The trend of ever-declining time devoted to physical education and recess has been repeatedly shown to be connected to poorer academic performance and worsening obesity rates among kids. While legislation has been introduced in many states to mandate time for physical education, many schools across the country are not meeting standards suggested by experts from associations such as the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and others.

Coaches Need Training, Too

More than half (52.1 percent) of respondents working for schools and school districts indicated that their school required a coaching certification for some of its employees. In fact, training and certification for coaches is required in many states. The American Sport Education Program (ASEP), just one popular provider of coach education programs, works directly with more than 40 state high school associations to deliver its Professional Coaches Education Program to more than 25,000 coaches every year.

In January 2008, the Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) board of directors voted to require that all members of a school's athletic coaching staff who do not hold valid teaching certificates must successfully complete an approved coaching education program. The courses approved as meeting the requirement include the ASEP's Coaching Essentials and Coaching Principles courses, which emphasize basic coaching principles, communication, motivation skills, safety and more.

"Educating coaches will help increase the likelihood that kids have positive sports experiences, and in turn increase the likelihood that kids stay in sports," said Lori Brown, ASEP sales and implementation manager.

For others looking for guidance on their youth sports programs, check out the recently updated National Standards for Youth Sports, compiled by the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS). The standards cover: quality sports environment, making sports participation a fun and balanced part of a child's life, providing training and accountability, implementing a screening process, getting parents involved, encouraging sportsmanship, providing a safe playing environment, offering equal opportunity to play, providing a drug-free environment. Focused more on volunteer coaches, the guideline still offers a valuable overview that can be applied to youth sports programs of all types. For more information, visit www.nays.org.