Mandated Training and Accountability

National Alliance for Youth Sports

By Sarah Christy

P
ervasive problems in youth sports such as unruly parents and a pressure-filled, win-at-all-costs environment—issues identified in the report card on the state of youth sports by the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance—can be attributed to insufficient training and a lack of accountability among volunteer coaches and parents. These problems can be remedied in part with training and educational programs mandated at the community and state levels.

"While it is great that individuals and organizations such as the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance are investigating and outlining the problems in youth sports, the National Alliance For Youth Sports is working hard to combat these problems with training and accountability," said Alliance CEO and Founder Fred Engh. The National Alliance For Youth Sports (NAYS), a nonprofit organization, has been offering training and educational programs that improve the youth sports experience since 1981.

Park and recreation organizations and other groups at the community and state levels must mandate training for volunteer youth sports workers as well as parents, as many of those involved in youth sports are uneducated about their roles and responsibilities.

"In the last 60 years, we have built here in the United States a total of 90,000 publicly financed facilities in which children play organized youth sports," Engh said. "Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of youth sports programs are run by volunteer coaches and administrators with no training or standards to which they are held, so the children suffer."

It's high time for improvements.

"If we are going to make changes in youth sports," Engh explained, "local and state park and recreation departments must take a firm stand on this issue and require the volunteers who are running these programs in their facilities to receive proper training and be held accountable for their actions."

While there are big-picture problems in youth sports, many organizations and youth sports leagues at the community level are, in fact, working to overcome those issues.

"We are finding that an increasing number of park and recreation associations and other youth sports organizations are focusing their efforts on improving the youth sports experience, implementing programs that train and educate the major players in youth sports, including coaches, parents, officials and administrators," Engh said.

NAYS has developed training programs for those involved in youth sports, including the Parents Association For Youth Sports (PAYS) and the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA), to combat the problems in youth sports that threaten to harm children emotionally, mentally and even physically. The PAYS program promotes understanding between coaches, kids and parents, while NYSCA is designed to sensitize volunteer coaches to their roles and responsibilities, and hold them accountable to a strict code of ethics.

This code of ethics is strictly enforced: More than 100 coaches have been banned from membership in NYSCA for behavior considered detrimental to young athletes. Currently, more than 3,000 community-based organizations offer the NYSCA program to coaches of 11 different sports.

"Quite simply, the major problems in youth sports can be overcome if all volunteer coaches and parents commit to improving and educating themselves, and if more organizations require them to do so," Engh said. "Youth sports organizations are only limited in what they can do by their hesitation to take a stand and implement the highest rules and standards when it comes to the well-being of children."



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Christy is director of public relations for the National Alliance For Youth Sports, which is celebrating 25 years of being one of America's leading advocates for positive and safe sports for children. For more information, visit www.nays.org.




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