Between the teamwork that takes place out on the fields by young athletes and the teamwork of staff and volunteers needed to serve 48,000 youngsters, Gwinnett (Ga.) County Parks and Recreation is a go-to player in a true sports town.

The department is also a winner of the 2012 Excellence in Youth Sports Award, 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.

Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation works in tandem with 28 nonprofit youth athletic associations to provide a variety of quality youth sports offerings, including football, cheerleading, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, softball, tennis and special needs recreation. "Our long-term relationships with these organizations demonstrate our efforts of maximizing community resources, teamwork, collaboration, cost efficiency, responsiveness, proper conduct and service excellence to the citizens of Gwinnett County," says Tina Fleming, division director of Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation and a Certified Youth Sports Administrator, adding that in 2011 parents, volunteers, board members and coaches of these associations devoted a total of 811,625 hours to youth sports.

For most, this volunteered time is in addition to normal day-to-day activities, like working, family responsibilities and going to school. Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation recognizes that educational opportunities are crucial to making sure volunteers of the youth athletic associations are on the same page. It has hosted a Youth Sports Expo not only for volunteers of local associations, but for any youth sports provider throughout Georgia. The expo covers important topics pertaining to youth sports, such as safety- and health-related topics, risk management, background checks and soil maintenance.

Additionally, many of Gwinnett County's youth athletic associations complete training through the National Youth Sports Administrators Association, a program of NAYS. "As volunteers coming from an array of backgrounds, it's important for those volunteers to receive training and education in order to help protect not only themselves, but the youths they serve," Fleming says.

NYSAA is an online clinic covering the most important aspects of youth sports administration, including how to manage volunteer coaches; work with parents, officials and other participants; develop a volunteer board; protect the program from embezzlement; navigate the insurance landscape; and use fundraising and marketing to support the league. Says Fleming, "Having trained, qualified volunteers ensures that the sports programs being operated on Gwinnett County property are the best that they can possibly be for all youth participating."

Gwinnett County prides itself on its rich sports history. Premiere athletes who hail from the area include Maya Moore, the first overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft; Jason Elam, a retired NFL kicker for the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons; and running back George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman Trophy winner. But a driven, sports-town mentality is balanced with an emphasis on sportsmanship. "By learning that trying your best is the definition of success, coaches and athletes come to value, expect and demand good sportsmanship from their players," Fleming says.

Story written by Linda Alberts, public relations coordinator for the National Alliance for Youth Sports.

The five winners of the 2012 Excellence in Youth Sports Awards, sponsored by the National Alliance for Youth Sports and Athletic Business magazine, 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 New Orleans on Friday, Nov. 30.