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Announcing the Twelfth Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2011)

Two parks and recreation agencies and three military installations are recipients of the 2011 Excellence in Youth Sports Awards.

Each recipient of the 2011 Excellence in Youth Sports Awards has earned that distinction by - in the words of one winning program's supervisors - "making a difference in the lives of our youths by instilling good sportsmanship behavior and teaching all participants the skills they need to advance."

Developed by Athletic Business and the National Alliance for Youth Sports, the awards recognize organizations for their efforts to make diverse athletic, fitness and recreation activities a major priority for kids, while focusing on safe and positive experiences for everyone (including parents, coaches and officials).

More than 50 groups from around the world - municipalities, military bases, Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs - have been honored as recipients since 2000. Five more organizations were added in 2011:

They will be honored on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Athletic Business Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Marine Corps Community Services Cherry Point Youth Sports (N.C.) A staff of two works to train parents and volunteers to be 'missionaries' of sportsmanship. -By Linda Alberts

Despite only having a staff of two, the youth sports program at Marine Corps Community Services Cherry Point (N.C.) is striving to change the current youth sports landscape into a more child-friendly environment that stresses exercise, discipline, teamwork and sportsmanship. "We are passionate about having a hand in making those changes," said David Guthrie, youth sports director at MCCS Cherry Point Youth Sports. "We know that change has to start at home."

The pillars of this youth sports program - one of the recipients of the 2011 Excellence in Youth Sports Awards, presented by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business - are built on teaching fundamentals, equal playing time and sportsmanship. A win-at-all costs attitude is strongly de-emphasized.

According to Guthrie, one of the greatest challenges in running such a program comes when MCCS teams participate in league action outside of the Marine Corps community. "There are almost always sportsmanship issues during those games," he said.

One solution may lie in making those outside leagues aware of the education programs available to them. "In order to deal with the issues associated with teams that are not ours, our goal for this coming year is to work with their parent organizations and encourage them to require parent training, such as PAYS," Guthrie says. The Parents Association for Youth Sports is a NAYS program designed to give parents the information they need to resolve conflict and communicate clearly with their child and coaches. "At the very least, we want to insist that they require their parents to sign a code of ethics pledge," he adds.

Parents at Cherry Point are required to attend a PAYS orientation that emphasizes sportsmanship and their role in the youth sports program. "Our parents support what we are trying to do wholeheartedly which makes our jobs so much easier," Guthrie says.

In addition, Cherry Point also requires its coaches to complete training through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA). "Together with coaches who are good role models, parents are an effective tool for us as we strive to promote good sportsmanship," Guthrie explains.

Like all military bases, Cherry Point is in a special position to properly train a generation of youths, volunteers and parents about what constitutes an appropriate youth sports environment. "Because our patrons are military folks and will be traveling to many other locations around the country and the world, they become 'missionaries' for the proper way to do things in youth sports," Guthrie says.

The Excellence in Youth Sports Award recognizes five youth sports programs every year for doing superior jobs of conducting diverse activities with a focus on providing safe and positive experiences for all participants - including children, parents and coaches. "I have been in the youth sports field - both professionally and as a volunteer - for more than 40 years, and to be recognized with such a prestigious award, obviously, there was a lot of excitement and joy," Guthrie says. "What an honor it is to have other professionals affirm what we are trying to do here with our programs."

Linda Alberts is the public relations coordinator for NAYS.

Village of Evendale (Ohio) Recreation Department There's a reason why two Ohio Coaches of the Year have come from this municipality. -By Linda Alberts

Youngsters from the Village of Evendale (Ohio) sign up for the recreation department's youth sports programs to learn a variety of sports skills and have fun participating in games with their friends and teammates. But they also gain a greater appreciation of good sportsmanship, thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers.

"We believe that we are making a difference in the lives of our youths by instilling good sportsmanship behavior and teaching all participants the skills they need to advance," says Kristen Maiden, program supervisor for Evendale Recreation. "That, in turn, will impact the rest of their lives."

The Village of Evendale Recreation Department is a 2011 recipient of the Excellence in Youth Sports Award. Developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business, the award recognizes five youth sports programs each year that are doing superior jobs of conducting diverse activities with a focus on providing safe and positive experiences for all participants, including children, parents and coaches. "Winning the award was a group effort," Maiden acknowledges, crediting the cooperation of parents, coaches and administrators.

Evendale Recreation's goal is to teach kids teamwork, respect and how to play by the rules. Simply put, Evendale is about sportsmanship.

In order to make that goal a reality, volunteer coaches and parents need to greatly influence the youth sports experience, so the department uses programs offered by NAYS to help educate them about their roles. Parents complete training through the Parents Association for Youth Sports, which provides information needed to resolve conflict and communicate clearly with their children and coaches. They also must sign the Parents Code of Ethics - although, initially, some were less than receptive to that. After the training, however, they understood the value that parent education brings. "Parents are vital to our program," Maiden says. "Having them buy into our program has been a huge compliment."

Volunteer coaches at Evendale Recreation are educated on their responsibilities and roles through another NAYS program, the National Youth Sports Coaches Association, which covers such topics as psychology of coaching youth sports, communication, child abuse, injury prevention, nutrition and hydration. And just like parents, coaches also must sign a Code of Ethics. "They are reminded that when they wear our coaches' shirts, they are representing our community through their behaviors and sportsmanship," Maiden says.

That extra effort pays off: Twice within the past six years, the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association has recognized Evendale Recreation coaches as its Ohio Coach of the Year.

Additionally, Evendale Recreation uses "Rate Your Coach" to assess coaching skills, participates in the NAYS Measure Up! for Better Youth Sports national coach evaluation study, and staff members monitor practices and games involving outside organizations using the village's facilities.

Linda Alberts is the public relations coordinator for NAYS.

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Youth Sports Program (Alaska) A successful merger of Air Force and Army operations pays big dividends for children. -By Linda Alberts

This has been a tremendous year for the youth sports staff at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) Youth Sports Program in Alaska. A joint-base merger of armed services and a wealth of updates to programming and facilities have provided both challenges and opportunities, resulting in a high-quality youth sports program for local families.

As a result, JBER Youth Sports is one of five recipients of the 2011 Excellence in Youth Sports Awards presented by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business. The awards recognize five youth sports programs every year for doing superior jobs of conducting diverse activities with a focus on providing safe and positive experiences for all participants - including children, parents and coaches.

"The biggest challenge we faced this year was the merger between Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson," says Paul Caron, JBER's youth sports and fitness director, who had to break down the "us versus them" attitude that had been going on between the bases for years.

"We deliberately created our teams with both Army and Air Force coaches and mixed the teams with children of parents from both services." Games and practices also are scheduled evenly on both bases in an effort to keep things fair.

Caron reports that, after some initial rough spots, the merger has gone smoothly. "Now, the kids, coaches and parents have built up friendships within both services," he says. "It's not a divided community anymore."

Caron found that by introducing new sports like volleyball and cheerleading for flag football, as well as bringing back Little League All-Stars, program participation has increased by as much as 45 percent. More than 1,500 youngsters currently play on JBER teams, and that may increase in 2012 with plans to add an NFL Punt, Pass and Kick camp and the NFL Play 60 program, plus a possible Olympics-style "sports day" with track and field events.

Another factor in the participation increase may be the effort Caron and his staff have put into providing a better playing environment. They now contract with paid scorekeepers and officials, which has improved the caliber of activities. "It helps to have an experienced official controlling the game," Caron says. "Parents tend to believe an official about a questionable play more than another parent."

Caron also credits recent successes to the recruiting and training of volunteer coaches. JBER Youth Sports abides by the NAYS-affiliated National Youth Sports Coaches Association, which provides a thorough education on topics such as the psychology of coaching youth sports, communication, child abuse, injury prevention, nutrition and hydration, as well as skills and drills specifically applicable to the sport each coach oversees. Since 2010, JBER Youth Sports has trained more than 400 volunteer coaches.

The organization also provides coaches' shirts with three simple adult rules listed on their back: 1. Make it FUN! 2. Set a good example! 3. Cheer for everyone! "I have witnessed coaches deal with parents being a little loud just by pointing to the back of their shirt," Caron says.

Linda Alberts is the public relations coordinator for NAYS.

Kaiserslautern Military Community Youth Sports and Fitness Program (Germany) This military community's youth sports programming scores with both kids and deployed parents. -By Linda Alberts

For the youth sports staff at Germany's Kaiserslautern Military Community Youth Sports and Fitness Program, winning the 2011 Excellence in Youth Sports Award is the result of perseverance. "We have been trying for five years to win this prestigious award, and we finally did it," says Allen Fleming, youth sports director at KMC. In 2010, the program received Honorable Mention recognition for the award that is presented annually by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business. It recognizes five youth sports programs across the country that are doing superior jobs of conducting diverse activities with a focus on providing safe and positive experiences for all participants, including children, parents and coaches.

KMC annually boasts participation of more than 6,000 children, ages 3 to 15. As one of the largest youth sports programs in the Air Force, it also serves the U.S. Army, Department of Defense civilians and members of the NATO community.

Through cooperation with other military installations, KMC is able to offer its youth participants opportunities to join other installations like Spangdahlem Air Base and U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder - allowing teams to enjoy the benefits of a larger combined youth sports program. According to Fleming, this cooperation among bases provides interactions that kids would otherwise never experience.

Since 2008, KMC has collaborated with Fussball Club Kaiserslautern, a local professional soccer team, and this partnership has broadened German/American relations for KMC's youth sports program. For example, each year team members and KMC hold a soccer camp, with this year's event accommodating more than 160 children of deployed military personnel.

KMC makes extra efforts to meet the needs of kids in families of deployed personnel by offering online registration - a simple option that allows parents who are away from their children remain active in their kids' lives. The staff also produces the "KMC Youth Sports News and Deployed Family Newsletter," an electronic document that keeps deployed servicemen and women connected to their families.

Additionally, the NAYS Start Smart program, developed for parents to help their children accomplish basic tasks that build motor skills and fundamental sports skills, fills a programming need for the installation's youngest participants. "Start Smart offers an activity that gets parents directly involved in their child's development," Fleming says. "Inadvertently, it gives spouses of deployed personnel a kind of support group to converse with."

In 2012, KMC plans to expand its new special-needs sports program, called KMC KIDS (Kids in Developmental Sports). Created for children ages 5 to 15, this program teaches participants the basic skills necessary to participate in sports. Youth sports staff members also plan to hold specialty camps for sports like flag football, basketball and girls' volleyball.

Linda Alberts is the public relations coordinator for NAYS.

Town of Westport (Conn.) Parks and Recreation Department Municipality partners with outside athletics groups to enhance youth sports programming. -By Linda Alberts

For the Town of Westport (Conn.) Parks and Recreation Department, winning the Excellence in Youth Sports Award not only recognizes the work of its staff, but also the longstanding relationships with several community youth sports providers that are crucial to offering quality youth sports to local children. "While the department has led the effort to make youth sports a safe and positive experience in Westport, it could not have been accomplished without the cooperation of the providers themselves," says Karen Puskas, program manager at the Town of Westport Parks and Recreation Department.

The only sport that Westport solely offers is basketball. The department's relationships with such outside providers as Westport Little League, the Westport Soccer Association and the Westport Police Athletic League allow it to offer additional sports like lacrosse, softball, baseball, soccer, football, track, wrestling and more. "We work with each provider to make sure the community's needs are being met at an affordable price and that a safe, positive experience is being made available to the children," Puskas says.

That approach has paid off. The Excellence in Youth Sports Award, presented annually by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business, recognizes five youth sports programs across the country that are doing superior jobs of conducting diverse activities with a focus on providing safe and positive experiences for all participants, including children, parents and coaches.

Since Westport works with several providers to offer 11 sports to more than 6,000 children, Puskas and her staff have learned that communication is essential to keeping everybody on the same page. For example, Westport coordinates each provider's games and practices in a way that does not make parents choose which child's event to attend and works with the management of each provider to facilitate review of complaints.

Additionally, each provider is aware of Westport's youth sports philosophy and is required to follow its policies. "All need to use town facilities for their programs, so they must abide by the rules, regulations and policies that we set forth," Puskas says.

One of those policies is that every volunteer coach be trained by the NAYS-affiliated National Youth Sports Coaches Association. Recreation staff members at Westport believe that it is their responsibility to ensure that the volunteers working with children in a youth sports environment receive appropriate education. NYSCA training is designed to prepare youth sports coaches for their responsibilities by educating them in the psychology of coaching youth sports, communication, child abuse, injury prevention, nutrition and hydration, as well as skills and drills from nationally reputable sources specifically applicable to the sport that the coach is teaching.

"We became an advocate for the kids," Puskas says. "Mandating that all providers have NYSCA training gives us the comfort of knowing that their volunteers have had some basic training in working with kids and gives the volunteers some guidelines to follow and be held accountable to."

Linda Alberts is the public relations coordinator for NAYS.

Previous winners from 2000 to 2010:

First Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2000)

Second Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2001)

Third Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2002)

Fourth Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2003)

Fifth Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2004)

Sixth Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2005)

Seventh Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2006)

Eighth Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2007)

Ninth Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2008)

Tenth Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2009)

Tenth Annual Excellence in Youth Sports Award Winners (2010)

For the most current Excellence in Youth Sports Awards information, visit: http://athleticbusiness.com/nays/

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