At the National Trail Parks and Recreation District in Springfield, Ohio, the staff conducts its youth sports programs with a Kids First philosophy.

And youngsters are reaping the benefits with fun-filled experiences.

“We have a staff of two full-time Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA) employees along with volunteers and a small support staff to organize and implement youth sports programs,” says Miste Adams, Recreation Superintendent. “This small but mighty team works tirelessly to provide the thousands of kids in our area and surrounding areas with the best youth sporting experience. We pride ourselves on being the leader and go-to group in the youth sports community.”

Soccer is the department’s most popular sport, as more than 700 youngsters take the field in the fall, and more than 350 participate in the spring. Plus, there are plenty of other sports to choose from throughout the year, including volleyball, basketball, flag football and tennis.

The department also conducted highly successful Start Smart Basketball and Baseball programs this year to give youngsters ages 3 to 5 a positive introduction to the sport and set the tone for a smooth transition into organized sports.

It also offers its Youth Sport Sampler, an innovative week-long, camp style program for kids ages 5 to 7. The unique format focuses on a different sport each day, giving kids the chance to try a new sport or play one that they haven’t been able to due to their commitments with other sports or activities.

“It is not always easy doing the right thing, but we always work to put the kids first in all our programs,” Adams says.

All of its programs feature affordable registration fees with no fundraising; good sportsmanship and safety are top priorities; and all staff decisions are made with the kids’ best interests as the focus.

“Sportsmanship is stressed in all our youth sports programs through our philosophy of Kids First and providing a fun and safe place for all children to learn and play sports,” Adams says. “Our staff uses hands-on training and education to promote and encourage sportsmanship in all our youth sports programs. To deter unsportsmanlike behavior each sports rule set outlines consequences for unsportsmanlike behavior.”