In this age of Google, YouTube and the resulting need for instant everything--information, videos, products, services and so on--those of us here at the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) realized we had to change how we delivered our youth sports coach training program--or risk being left behind.
So, in 2005, we unveiled online certification programs for baseball and football, followed shortly by programs covering softball, t-ball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, hockey, in-line hockey, flag football and cheerleading. Since its inception, more than 16,000 coaches have chosen to use the Internet to receive their certification, with the numbers figuring to climb dramatically in the coming years.
Of course, there are still plenty of recreation leaders out there who like the experience of having the coaches “live” in a classroom setting--where they can interact and talk about how to deal with obnoxious parents, kids who prefer video games to activity and all the other challenges unique to youth sports. But, overall, online training is becoming the favorite way to reach everyone from young students to professionals and, yes, the adult players in youth sports.
Change--The Eternal Constant
My how things have changed. When I formed the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) to train and certify youth sports coaches 25 years ago, all we had available was a 40-page manual that parks and recreation professionals used as a guide to recruit speakers who would talk to coaches about the philosophy of coaching, safety issues and first aid, and tips on how to conduct practices in a variety of sports. I really admire those professionals who, with only a simple manual to guide them, went above and beyond their everyday jobs to do what they could to help improve the youth sports landscape.
Then, along came video. Many years ago, an old friend of mine--and a parks and recreation professional--suggested putting our training program in a video format so the message could spread more quickly. He was right, and things changed.
In hard numbers, the result was that the NYSCA almost immediately went from having 20,000 members a year to more than 100,000.
And now comes the Internet. I don’t need to tell you how much the Internet has changed all of our lives at work and at home--and it will continue to do so. That is why developing online training was more than just an option; it was a necessity. More volunteer coaches will be reached, and now there are no reasons to allow someone the privilege of coaching kids without the proper introduction to their roles and responsibilities in making sure youth sports is nothing less than a positive, fun and safe experience.
Fred Engh is founder of The National Alliance for Youth Sports in West Palm Beach, Fla. For more information about NYSCA and online coach certification, please visit www.nays.org.