When it comes to sports for minors, the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department is a major player, as it operates youth sports leagues for more than 100,000 children throughout more than 140 parks in the L.A. County area.
To make sure he’s equipped for the lofty task of running such large leagues Manuel Escobar – east agency regional operations manager for the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department – relies on help from the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) for his region of the county.
In an effort to spread the success of his program to other regions of L.A. County Parks and Recreation, Escobar will be featuring NAYS programs and services at an upcoming quarterly meeting for more than 100 L.A. County recreation professionals on April 23. With the help of NAYS COO John Engh, Escobar will discuss how to implement such NAYS programs as the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) – a volunteer coaches training and membership program that has certified more than 2.5 million volunteer moms and dads since 1981.
He also intends to discuss the National Standards for Youth Sports, a roadmap for conducting top-quality youth sports programs that meet all kids’ needs that were created by leading youth sports professionals and experts from all across the country.
“We operate a lot of youth sports programs in our department,” Escobar said. “We hold year-round recreational sports and we wanted to have a national organization that could support what we were already doing. The fact that NAYS was out there, the fit just seemed natural. Rather than create new rules and standards, there were already existing ones out there.”
Since implementing both the Standards and NYSCA in his community, complaints about adult behavior in Escobar’s youth leagues have dropped dramatically – and now he hopes all other L.A. County regions will follow his lead.
“The meeting is something that our department does every quarter,” he said. “April is our turn to host and we plan to show a NAYS video. We’re excited to have a NAYS representative come to talk about their programs, its direction and mission. We will also have our staff come up and present slides and videos of what we’ve done and we’ll show them how to implement the programs in their regions.”
Escobar is a Certified Youth Sports Administrator (CYSA) – a professional designation given to him by the Academy for Youth Sports Administrators (AYSA), a program of NAYS. Escobar earned his CYSA status in 2005 at a special Academy inDenver, Colo. He initially decided to attend an Academy for the opportunity to network with some like-minded professionals, but he quickly realized just how informative the educational portion was.
“I like the actual information that is provided, the Web site information, the networking and the contacts,” he said. “You think you’re the only one with a problem but you’re not, someone else may have had your same problem and has a solution for it.”
While at the Academy, Escobar learned about the many proven NAYS programs and services that are used to enhance the youth sports experience. Shortly after earning his CYSA status, Escobar established L.A. County Parks and Recreation as an official chapter of NAYS.
Escobar’s coaches can receive NYSCA certification online or by attending a live clinic in a classroom-like setting. Although Escobar thinks the online program is valuable, he prefers to hold live clinics, which promote group discussion and hands-on learning.
“The curriculum itself is really good, plus the coaches get SportingKid magazine and access to all the stuff on the new Web site,” he said. “I like the fact that the program teaches to respect the game and the people that are presenting them with this opportunity to come out as volunteer coaches.”
Escobar is also proud of his role in the recent revision of the National Standards for Youth Sports. Because it was originally created in 1987, NAYS decided to update the Standards in 2008 with the help of its valuable network of CYSAs. These recreation professionals assisted in updating the Standards based on their experiences out on the fields, courts and rinks.
He intends to stress to his colleagues that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to organizing their youth sports leagues. He will emphasize how NAYS has already designed comprehensive programs and guidelines that are proven to effectively improve and enhance the quality of youth sports in any community.
“The info that is provided is worth the time,” he said. “Plus the fact that the Standards and guidelines are already in place, it’s a real helpful tool and we noticed that complaints have gone down considerably since we started using NAYS programs.”
Escobar also intends to take some time to talk about local athlete Mizhrua Bautista. Bautista was recently featured in NAYS’ SportingKid publication for her exemplary sportsmanship and academic accomplishments. Raising such well-rounded youngsters is precisely the goal that NAYS programs seek to achieve.
Consequently, it comes as no surprise that such a special athlete would come from such a dedicated program.