Instilling Life Values

By Fred Engh

As the nation’s third-largest county park system, Miami-DadeCountyParks, Recreation and Open Spaces in Florida provides youth-sports programming for a jaw-dropping 9,000 youngsters.

That’s a lot of kids, a lot of volunteers coaching them, and certainly a lot of challenges for the staff overseeing the programs for youngsters ranging in age from 5 to 17.

“Not every child is the same, and not every child comes from the same background,” says Eduardo Martinez, who is in his sixth year as the park’s manager and a Certified Youth Sports Administrator. “You can only control what happens under your watch. The best advice I can give is to always stay positive under difficult circumstances, and try to avoid getting involved in situations beyond your control.”

Youngsters are treated to an assortment of sports programs at Miami-Dade, plus each in-house program features a Fit to Play component that measures and tracks the children’s progress to help keep them active and healthy.

“Sports should be viewed as a tool to instill life values for the adults of tomorrow,” says Martinez, who shares more information about his rewarding and challenging position:

Fred: What makes you excited to get up and go to work in the morning?

Eduardo: Knowing that I play a vital role in the general lives of the public. What I mean by that is that every day I am instrumental in creating experiences—whether it is helping a person in need to mentoring and coaching my team members to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

Fred: What was your worst day on the job?

Eduardo: The worst day was responding to the stabbing of a baseball coach. One parent didn’t like the coach’s demeanor, and the next thing anyone knew, the coach was chased to the parking lot, where he was stabbed. There is no room for violence in youth sports. Thankfully, the coach was OK, and the perpetrator was later arrested.

Fred: What was the best piece of advice you received that has helped you perform your job better?

Eduardo: Quality matters more than the speed of completing the task assigned. I always tell my employees to follow through when completing the task versus trying to do too much. Sometimes doing too much creates confusion and animosity on the team. For me, TEAMS stands for Together Everyone Achieves More Success, and that is how I go about my day.

Fred: What is the biggest mistake parents make with their kids when it comes to playing sports these days?

Eduardo: Parents think their children are going to play professional sports when they are just starting out. Parents should support their children in every way possible; however, sometimes being too involved is more stressful on the child, and may create animosity between the coach and the player.

Fred: What is the best idea your department has come up with since you have been there, and how has it impacted the program?

Eduardo: Our department has partnered with UHEALTH in our Fit to Play programs. Keeping children active and living healthy lifestyles has had to positive results. Measures are kept before, during, and after the program to show how a child has improved in both health and well-being. This new way of offering programs in our department has also garnered much attention, and has helped the department with grant opportunities.

Fred Engh is founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He can be reached via email at To join more than 3,000 communities by starting a NAYS chapter, visit or contact Emmy Martinez at or (800) 729-2057.