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Kids come first at Camp Lejeune Youth Sports in North Carolina

At MCCS Camp Lejeune Youth Sports in North Carolina, ongoing efforts of excellence wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of volunteers and staff. Their program philosophy centers on community, which is appropriate since their community is so unique. In addition to serving the families on base, Camp Lejeune works with the nearby Marine Corps Air Station New River, as well as the Onslow County (N.C.) Parks and Recreation Department and the City of Jacksonville (N.C.) Recreation and Parks Department to serve the 2,500 children that sign up for their youth sports offerings each year.

Maintaining community relationships and partnering with neighboring recreational agencies helps provide physical activities and wellness opportunities to Camp Lejeune’s young athletes that otherwise would be lost.

Their youth sports program keeps the fun in fundamentals, and this message is made clear to everyone. Upon walking into the youth sports building, customers are met with a sign that reads: Welcome to Camp Lejeune Youth Sports, where kids come first, where everyone sets a good example, where everyone has fun, where everyone is supportive.

The key way to ensure this message is through educating parents and coaches that volunteer at MCCS Camp Lejeune Youth Sports. They have approximately 300 coaches that complete training through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) each year. This program enforces Camp Lejeune’s philosophies by teaching coaches how to create a fun and safe youth sports environment through topics like keeping players active at practice, building confidence, the role of winning in youth sports and working with parents.

At the end of the NYSCA training, coaches sign a Code of Ethics agreeing to uphold basic tenants of being an ideal coach, such as treating each player as an individual and being a role model of fair play and sportsmanship. To the staff at MCCS Camp Lejeune Youth Sports, accountability does not end when a coach signs the Code of Ethics. Rather, it is just the beginning.

Volunteers are expected to ensure a fun experience, a safe environment and promote sportsmanship and teamwork to the children entrusted to them. MCCS Camp Lejeune Youth Sports recently updated their coach handbooks to stress the important role coaches play in the youth sports program.

“Our goal is to ensure that all parties are on the same page from the first day of practice to the final game,” said Chris Alger, base athletic director at MCCS Camp Lejeune.

The new handbooks consist of a volunteer job description, touch policy, inclement weather procedures and a volunteer agreement, on top of the existing material for NYSCA training.

“Redoing these policies help us to ensure the same message is being conveyed to all parties,” Alger said. “Proper communication is essential to the success of any organization and providing our volunteers with this information is the first step in the process.”

Technology is also a driving force behind the program’s communication efforts. They utilize several avenues to increase and diversify communication to their multigenerational participants. For example, while they depend on traditional means of communications like meetings, personal phone calls and printed handouts they also incorporate electronic outlets like email, Facebook and the military community’s electronic forum, Interactive Customer Evaluation, commonly referred to as ICE.

“Advanced technology is a driving force and measuring stick in identifying successes, disseminating information and addressing areas of concern,” Alger said.

MCCS Camp Lejeune Youth Sports is one of five youth sports programs to be named the 2012 Excellence in Youths Sports Award winners. Developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) 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.