I’ve been around youth sports for a long time, and to be perfectly honest, there are some things that I just don’t get.
Here’s one of them: Why don’t we have superintendents of youth sports in every community across the country? It makes perfect sense.
After all, just take a look at how today’s educational system is structured. Schools are divided into districts that are overseen by —superintendents!
For those of you familiar with the work the National Alliance for Youth Sports has been doing for more than a quarter century, or have taken the time to review my thoughts in previous issues of this magazine, you know that I strongly believe that youth sports serve as the outdoor classroom for children.
Inside school walls, children learn those all-important reading, writing and math skills, among others, that they will rely on every day.
Outside, on the playing fields, they pick up other skills--equally valuable ones that also will be used daily—such as how to handle both success and disappointment with grace, what it means to be part of a team working toward a goal and the true value of doing one’s best at all times.
You can bet that parents would be appalled if schools weren’t overseen by a superintendent. Just imagine the uproar if parents discovered that their youngster’s teachers were free to teach what they wanted and how they wanted--with no one to answer to. That would be a disaster of epic proportions.
Yet, when it comes to youth sports, what do we do? Alarmingly, the exact opposite of how schools are run.
Recreation departments routinely allow groups to use fields--funded by tax dollars--with virtually no requirements. In simple terms, accountability is shoved to the curb.
Volunteers can coach how they want and parents and other spectators have free rein to behave how they choose, and that’s why we have so many problems today.
Sure, many communities have athletic supervisors, those men and women who lease out the facilities, make sure the fields are cut and lined, and also handle various other responsibilities. I’m not diminishing their roles in the least because they perform an important and valuable service, and without them youth sports programs would have no chance of running smoothly.
There simply needs to be that superintendent overseeing every aspect of all the youth sports programs in the community.
Create The Role
The Recommendations for Communities (which can be downloaded at no cost at www.nays.org) states the importance of having a position that works closely with each group applying to use the community’s facilities. It also ensures that rules and policies are clearly understood and deviating from them will not be tolerated in any way.
It is definitely a huge undertaking, but there are plenty of men and women who are more than qualified to fill these roles. The perfect candidates are those with a degree in physical education or recreation and, even more importantly, have earned the coveted Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA) credential.
There are more than 1,600 individuals who have taken the time to become CYSAs by going through the Academy for Youth Sports Administrators program, held throughout the year around the country. In brief, it means that they have completed a 20-hour certification program, learning about youth sports philosophy, professional development, mission statements, policies and procedures, volunteer management, child-abuse prevention, parent management, conflict resolution, insurance and risk management, inclusion of children with disabilities and program evaluation and marketing.
Keep in mind that every school system across the country functions at a higher level of efficiency with a superintendent overseeing what takes place within his or her jurisdiction. That individual is ultimately responsible for the quality of the education each child receives.
So clearly it’s the right thing to do when it comes to youth sports programming in these communities as well.
Go ahead, make the move. You’ll be glad you did because everyone benefits.
Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla., which has been advocating positive and safe sports for children since 1981. He is also the author of “Why Johnny Hates Sports,” which is available on Amazon.com. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org