Robins Air Force Base Youth Sports (Georgia) judges the effectiveness of their youth sports coaches on feedback from parents and kids. So when it came time to nominate a volunteer coach for the National Youth Sports Coaches Association annual Coach of the Year Award, Robins Air Force Base Youth Sports simply turned to their many satisfied customers.
Without hesitation, community members pointed to Donald Wendland.
While nominations poured in from around the country for all the outstanding work volunteer coaches are performing, Wendland stood out above everyone else, earning him this year’s prestigious NYSCA Volunteer Coach of the Year Award.
Wendland received the award during the 8th annual NAYS Youth Sports Congress in Orlando, Fla., which took place Dec. 2-5.
Each year NYSCA presents the Coach of the Year award to one individual who embodies everything that a volunteer coach should be all about. It’s someone who places the emotional and physical well-being of players ahead of any personal desire to win; who treats each player as an individual; who is an enthusiastic team leader and a positive role model; who has a thorough knowledge of the techniques and rules of the sport they’re coaching; and who understands that they can use their role as a coach to influence so many other areas of a child’s life.
“For all the teams he has coached, the players come back season after season. Parents request that he coach their kids every season,” said Ronald K. Hayes, director of youth sports and fitness for Robins Air Force Base Youth Sports. “He not only teaches them the game of soccer, he demonstrates good sportsmanship at all times, whether winning or losing. He explains the rules to the kids by breaking them down to simple parts.”
Hayes said that Wendland’s methods stand out because of the way in which he communicates with the children in his care. Wendland avoids the common pitfall that many youth sports coaches make of losing perspective and forgetting that players are children first, athletes second.
“One thing that makes the kids love his coaching is he talks to them and not at them,” Hayes said. “He consistently gets down to their level, physically looking eye to eye with them. This shows that he cares about what they are thinking and in what they have to say and this helps them to feel relaxed.”
Wendland has been a coach for the Robins Youth Soccer Association (RYSA) for the past five years, where he regularly coaches anywhere from one to three teams per season. Along with his coaching duties, Wendland has served on the RYSA committee as vice president for one year and as president for the past three years.
“He always goes beyond his duties by asking if there is anything that needs to be done to the fields to get them ready for games or practices,” Hayes said. “He is a valued coach.”
Along with the countless nights and weekends spent on the field coaching, Wendland devotes several hours a week performing his duties as league president. Wendland is responsible for disseminating information from the youth center to all parents and coaches, as well as organizing teams for all age groups.
“He is very effective in teaching the kids the fundamentals of the game,” Hayes said. “He teaches by example when demonstrating drills or the way he behaves around the kids. Most importantly, Don always makes practices fun to the point that even after an hour and half practice the kids can’t believe that practice is over already and can’t wait for the next practice.”
Wendland manages to achieve that perfect balance of providing informative skill instruction and sports education, while managing to keep the focus on having fun and trying your best, regardless of the outcome. This dedication to quality youth sports is what has earned him the most deserving title of 2009 NYSCA Coach of the Year.