Two types of coaches, traditional and "honorary," help make these programs successful.
Young athletes in Andrews AFB's Youth Sports recreational leagues have two coaches: a traditional coach and an "honorary coach" (who also is a deployed military member). The traditional coach teaches the usual Xs and Os, plus sportsmanship lessons, while the honorary coach helps kids learn the importance of helping others.
Through the Honorary Coach Program, children living on the base have the opportunity to adopt the deployed member and send him or her care packages throughout the season. Often, that person is a parent of one of the team's children. This program boosts the morale of deployed Air Force personnel while keeping them in touch with what's going on back home.
The Honorary Coach Program is just one reason why Andrews AFB Youth Sports has received a prestigious 2009 Excellence in Youth Sports Award. "It's definitely a pleasure and honor to have won this award," says Bob Mowchan, youth sports and fitness director for the base. "It's something we've been striving for since the award came out. We focus on keeping the philosophy that we're here for the kids so they can build friendships and learn about sports, as well as life."
Andrews AFB Youth Sports provides athletic opportunities that are recreational in nature, emphasize participation and based upon the NAYS National Standards for Youth Sports. Children enjoy such sports as basketball, cheerleading, baseball, softball, indoor and outdoor soccer, and flag football.
Mowchan says nearby youth sports organizations focus too much on winning, so the base switched to an all-military league. Through an arrangement between Bolling AFB (Washington, D.C.) and Fort Belvoir (Va.), Andrews AFB Youth Sports participants play against teams from leagues that operate under similar philosophies.
The program philosophy is centered on sportsmanship and is communicated through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association training, a coach's packet that includes program information with bylaws making each sport age-appropriate, the "Andrews Youth Sports Handbook" and other coaches' development tools.
Parents learn about this philosophy at a mandatory meeting that kicks off each season and includes viewing of the Parents Association for Youth Sports (PAYS) video and signing of the Parent's Code of Ethics Pledge. Parents also receive copies of the bylaws and an electronic copy of the handbook, which states that good sportsmanship is expected at all times from parents, coaches, players and officials.
Along with receiving NYSCA training, coaches must successfully pass a National Crime Information Center check (which looks for an individual's prior criminal activity in all 50 states), as well as complete an application and sign a statement indicating that they have never been arrested for or convicted of a crime involving a child. Coaches need to be certified in CPR/first aid, and all are equipped with a set of emergency procedure instructions found in the coach's packet. To ensure that coaches are upholding the NYSCA Code of Ethics, the program's sports director conducts mid-season evaluations on every coach.
"This program runs by volunteers and wouldn't exist without them," Mowchan says. "Having the NAYS philosophy for them to work with is comforting, because it's easy for parents to get lost in youth sports. NAYS keeps [parents'] eyes on the ball and reminds them that the program is for the kids."