Youth sports aren't what they were 30 years ago, when kids organized their own games and played wherever space allowed. Today, youth sports is highly organized and structured, and children often are under immense pressure to perform their best. Those who don't spend their time on the benches, where they're missing out not just on the opportunity to hone their physical skills, but the essential life skills that naturally develop. On Thursday at the Athletic Business Conference, after a session on how to set up successful relationships and field management arrangements with the volunteer sports organizations overseeing a greater percentage of youth sports, the National Alliance for Youth Sports unveiled its newest online program, Let's Talk Sports.
Developed and presented by Dr. Michael Gray, an exercise physiologist from Northern Kentucky University, the program is a way to reach out to early-elementary-school-aged athletes and help develop life skills gained from sports participation, such as leadership, self-discipline, sportsmanship, and teamwork. The online program features a lesson related to each skill, asking children to identify which of a set of sports-related examples represents a certain skill. Parents are asked to discuss the possibilities with their children, and a narrator explains why each example is correct or incorrect, ultimately aiming to provide a better understanding of what a certain skill is and how to demonstrate that skill.
The new program was tested among 200 participants, and the response from both parents and children was excellent. This is only the beginning, Gray said, as NAYS looks at other ways to expand the program, bringing it into schools or reformatting it for older age groups.