A Dynamic Duo

Can you imagine Laurel without Hardy? Abbott without Costello? How about Johnny Carson but no Ed McMahon? Of course not. One without the other just doesn’t cut it.

So--stick with my comparison here for a moment--when it comes to youth sports, I’m amazed by directors of parks and recreation departments who lease out their facilities and continually go about business without a Council of Youth League Presidents.

It’s ridiculous, because you can’t have one without the other; not if you are interested in providing the very best programs for the children in your community.

Without a council in place, you’re missing half of a really great combination that can work wonders.

Think about it. Dean Martin was funny, but he got even more laughs with Jerry Lewis, and Joe Montana was an extraordinary quarterback for the 49ers, but he was even better with Jerry Rice.

You may be running a top-notch youth sports program, but with a Council of Youth League Presidents in place, it can be even better.

A lot better.

Building A Council

As we know, taxpayer money builds the park and recreation department facilities in our communities where kids play soccer, baseball and countless other sports. Outside users--those independent groups that lease these facilities--are what make the establishment of a council so important.

Sure, these are well-meaning individuals who head up these groups and they certainly provide a great service. Most alarming, though, is that the vast majority of these folks have zero training when it comes to the true meaning of sports for children. Although they probably played sports growing up and have coached them too, that doesn’t automatically translate into knowing what is best for an entire group of kids. It’s why we see so many programs getting sidetracked from doing what’s best for the kids and losing sight of what these young athletes want, and need, out of their experiences.

Make It Work

Several years ago, a study was released that reported nearly 90 percent of volunteer administrators hadn’t received any training on how to manage a youth sports program. Pretty scary numbers, especially when you consider that every day these are the people entrusted with making a lot of important decisions and setting policies that affect the children in their care.

This is how a Council of Youth League Presidents can work for you--In order for any independent youth league to lease a department’s facilities, its president must agree to join this special council. As members, they’ll get a rundown on everything from the behavior that is expected from fans to how the coaches should interact with players to help maintain a positive atmosphere.

By sharing your expertise they’ll be much better equipped to make informed choices and set high standards for players, parents and everyone else associated with their programs.

That reduces the chances of nasty bickering and ugly fights taking place on fields.

Now that’s good news for all involved.

There are lots of other benefits, too. By bringing all of these presidents together they’ll have opportunities to share useful information with one another. Perhaps someone has discovered an innovative fund-raising technique that others could benefit from. It can also be the chance for individuals to present problems they are dealing with that someone else may already have encountered and solved and can pass along their solution.

If you’d like some more details on this, I’d suggest checking out the National Youth Sports Administrators Association, one of the programs of the National Alliance for Youth Sports. Visit our Web site at www.nays.org to get all the information you need, or drop an email to nysaa@nays.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The Council of Youth League Presidents is really all about getting everyone on the same page--regardless of the sport or age or skill level of the participants--before the kids take the field or court.

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 fengh@nays.org