Jefferson City (Mo.) Parks, Recreation & Forestry has been training volunteer youth sports coaches since 1986, and it’s safe to say that the city was an early adopter of coach education. Today, the program continues to place emphasis on supporting and training coaches as a way to ensure a positive and safe youth sports experience for all participants.
Jefferson City strives to provide children and their families with meaningful recreational experiences in sports that recognize each player's physical and emotional wellbeing and teaches skill development. That goal is achieved in part by training their coaches through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA), a programof the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
NYSCA prepares coaches for their roles and responsibilities in youth sports with training in the psychology of coaching youth sports, communication, injury prevention and nutrition and hydration, as well as skills and drills specifically applicable to the sport that the coach is teaching.
The team at NYSCA offers its support to coaches to answer any questions or concerns, and conducts league meetings to discuss rules, steps that recreation and program supervisor Angie Toebben says have proven beneficial to Jefferson City’s youth programs. “It has worked well for us to let all the coaches sit down together,” she says. “It helps us get to know them a little better and build a better relationship.”
While the average retention of a coach is two to four years, Toebben says that some volunteer coaches have been with the program as long as 12 years. “Over the years we have had multiple coaches coach more than one child throughout several years or even in the same league and season,” says Toebben. “It is pretty inspiring to see the dedication of some of these coaches.”
Mark Schell, a director with PAL Baseball in Jefferson City, says that the training, support tools and open line of communication are key to the longevity of Jefferson City’s volunteer coaches.
He wrote in a recommendation letter for the department, “They are able to keep good coaches because they make it easier on us to manage the teams. Most volunteer coaches also have fulltime jobs and other commitments. Their time is limited. This department does all it can to make sure their coaching job is easier, and we can spend the majority of our time on the field with the kids. I know that there are many other aspects that are part of providing a good sports program, but having good coaches is essential. In my experience, they are able to attract and keep good coaches.”
The department invests a great deal of effort into developing a quality volunteer base. Volunteers who want to coach at Jefferson City have to complete an application and clear a background check, as well as attend a coaches’ meeting outlining expectations and completing NYSCA training. Players’ parents are also surveyed to gain feedback on how each coach is performing.
“With the steps that we ask coaches to take before they are approved to coach, we feel that most of our coaches are coaching because they want to be,” Toebben says. “They are dedicating their time to not only fill out coaches’ paperwork every year, but investing their time and efforts in practice planning, running practices and games. You can tell that they really love kids and sports, and that we can make that happen for these individuals is just awesome.”
Coaches have ownership in the program, too. A committee of 16 coaches and two staff members developed the department’s heat policy last year following an exceptionally hot summer.
“We didn’t have an official heat policy at that time and felt that we needed to develop one,” explains Toebben. “Since the coaches are at the field with the players and parents, we felt it was vital to involve them in the process.”
Jefferson City Parks, Recreation & Forestry is one of five youth sports programs to be named the 2014 Excellence in Youth Sports award winners.
“Over the years I have wondered if we would meet the qualifications to apply for this award but did not pursue it like I should have,” Toebben says. “I felt it was time to see how we were doing compared to other youth sports programs. One of the great things about this award is the application process and how it made me evaluate myself, my staff members and our youth sports programs even more than I have in the past. I hope this award will make an even more positive impact within our community and surrounding areas.”
Developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business magazine, the award recognizes programs 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.
Developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business magazine, the award recognizes programs 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.The five winners of the 2014 Excellence in Youth Sports Award are being announced in this space over the next five days. The awards will be presented to program administrators at the Athletic Business Conference & Expo in Orlando on Friday, Nov. 14.
Story written by Linda Alberts, public relations coordinator for the National Alliance for Youth Sports.