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Applying for the Excellence in Youth Sports Award is a process the youth sports program at MCAS-MCCS Miramar Youth Sports in San Diego (Calif.) knows quite well and takes very seriously. When they applied for the award in 2009, they were named as one of the 20 Honorable Mention recipients, which laid the foundation for this year taking the next step and achieving the coveted status of one of the five Excellence Award winners.
“We considered it a privilege to be considered an Honorable Mention,”said Sheron Jones, Miramar Youth Sports Director. However, she knew that changes could be made to provide a better youth sports program. “We solicited feedback from parents, coaches and players to determine which areas they felt could use improvement,” Jones said.
With the responses they received, Jones and her staff determined that program documentation could be improved upon, as well as how they market to the community. “Constructive criticism and reflection can provide a great learning experience,” she said.
Jones advises other youth sports programs to never give up and encourages them to be open to new ideas that will help them to be more productive and efficient. “It’s important to think outside of the box and be creative,” she said. “Every year we try to add at least one new activity or program.”
While improving their youth sports program, Miramar Youth Sports has faced their share of obstacles, too. “Though it seems that everyone has to deal with some sort of budget cuts, it is by far the biggest challenge we have overcome,” said Jones. “By being open and honest with our coaches and parents, they have understood our challenge and have gone by leaps and bounds to assist us.”
Jones credits the tremendous support system from the community for the program’s success. For example, coaches have provided their own practice equipment; and parents have volunteered to take raining on how to handle food, manage money and inventory in order to operate a snack bar during games. Additionally, Miramar Youth Sports have utilized their good relationships with vendors to make adjustments in costs, as well as apply for grants and sponsorships in order to continue offering a quality,
innovative youth sports program.
Sportsmanship is one of the key values Miramar Youth Sports wants to instill in the children involved in their program because it’s a skill they can use in all aspects of life. “Being a member of a team develops a youth’s abilities to work well with others and practice good social and communication skills,” Jones said. “Because we include all youth regardless of ability, the children learn how to appreciate differences in others and diversity.”
Certain behaviors are expected from the children participating in Miramar Youth Sports. For instance, shaking hands and congratulating each other after games. Also, they must recite a pledge to be a good sport before each practice and game.
It’s important for everyone involved in the youth sports program to exhibit sportsmanship at all times. “We must lead by example,” Jones stressed.
Each volunteer coach and volunteer official is trained through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) and the National Youth Sports Officials Association (NYSOA), respectively, offered by
NAYS. “Having trained and educated volunteer coaches and volunteer officials in our program give parents a sense of relief. They know that their child is going to be treated fairly,” explained Jones. “Through hard work, dedication and support, we have built a reputation in our community for being the program that everyone wants to participate in.”
Miramar Youth Sports has a retention rate of 80 percent of its participants, and an increase of participation of 2-4 percent each year.
“We all share a common goal to provide a positive and safe place for our youth to play sports,” Jones said. “We’re almost like a family. It’s a tight knit community and we welcome everyone that wants to participate.”
In fact, Jones and her staff have launched a new program called the Junior Coach and Official Program for teens that desire to help youth. Jones explains that the idea for the program came from realizing that as teens got older, they were not able to participate on teams as much.
The teens go through the same NAYS training as volunteer coaches and officials. “Although the teens are not old enough to become certified through NAYS, they still watch the videos and attend mandatory meetings,” said Jones. Then the teens are paired with a certified coach or official, who serve in a mentor capacity.
In addition to retaining the teens in their youth sports program, the program also provides them with developmental opportunities while serving the community. “Not only do they learn to properly coach and officiate, but they also learn how to be fair, honest and responsible,” she said.
National Alliance for Youth Sports, Inc
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West Palm Beach, Florida 33411
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