When I founded the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) in 1981 it was based on my experience of seeing the ills in youth sports as a physical educator, coach and recreation professional. Those ills were (and still are today) the result of untrained parents who volunteer as coaches in youth sports. As witnessed in the show Friday Night Tykes, the focus of youth sports is not on the children, but on the overzealous, win-at-all-costs, untrained coaches instead. In addition, parents of children today have unreasonable expectations of their children being able to make it to the highest level in sports, and thus, create enormous pressure for the child to succeed.
In my first book, Why Johnny Hates Sports (Amazon), I detail the many horrific stories of psychological, emotional and physical abuse children face in organized youth sports. I also outline the steps that can be taken to overcome the problems that exist. My new book, Unsinkable Spirit, soon to be published (Headline Books), is the story of the many hardships that led to the creation of NAYS. It details the financial struggle and counter-action by existing youth sport organizations that feared the thought of requiring volunteer coaches to be trained.
Today, NAYS has training programs for coaches, parents, administrators and officials. These programs are used by more than 3,000 youth recreation agencies throughout the U.S. and the world. The U.S. military makes the NAYS programs a requirement for all military personnel, as well as coaches and parents on bases worldwide.
More than 2.5 million volunteer coaches have successfully completed the NAYS training programs, which emphasize the importance of keeping youth sports fun, positive and safe for all children. In addition, the NAYS youth development division has a number of programs to give children a healthy start in sports by teaching the basic fundamentals using colorful, safe equipment.
The bottom line when it comes to sports, and I speak as a physical educator, is that sports participation provides children the opportunity, like nowhere else, to learn life lessons of perseverance, abiding by rules, discipline, etc. We need to emphasize this more to people. Beginning this discussion can prove a positive step in setting the direction for changing the landscape of youth sports from one of abnormal abuse to one of positive development of children through the power of sports.
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