Glynn County (Ga.) taking measures to protect its youth sports participants

6/7/2010

In response to America’s growing epidemic of violence, theft and child abuse in youth sports, the Glynn County Recreation and Parks Department (Ga.) is taking significant measures to screen and evaluate all volunteer coaches in its youth sports leagues.
 
With more than 2,250 youth participants in its leagues, Glynn County has turned to the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) and its membership/education program – the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA) – to ensure that their athletes are in the hands of caring and qualified individuals.
 
Before stepping foot onto a field to coach, volunteers in Glynn County are subject to a stringent screening process to ensure that they are fit and qualified to supervise children. The screening process consists of completing a coach application, attending an NYSCA clinic and signing the NYSCA Code of Ethics, a criminal background check and an evaluation on previous ratings by staff and parents.
 
“We have to better our program and let the parents of our participants know that we have standards not only for the players and parents but also for the coaches,” said Steve Mellinger, program manager of athletics, construction and special projects for the Glynn County Recreation and Parks Department.
 
Glynn County is like the 3,500 other NAYS affiliated communities throughout the country that train, educate and screen their coaches through NYSCA. Since 1981, more than 3 million volunteer coaches have been trained through NYSCA clinics.
 
But Glynn County’s screening process doesn’t necessarily end once the coaches take the field. Parents are encouraged to evaluate their child’s coach through NAYS’ innovative online Coach Rating System.
 
“The best things about the NAYS program are the on-line coaches evaluation system and the training curriculum,” said Mellinger. “It gives our coaches an extra avenue to pursue in learning more about their sport and what is expected of them at all times. The rating system is becoming an important factor in coaches being invited back the following year for that sport or not.”
 
The rating system allows league administrators who are affiliated with NAYS to provide a digital link for parents to evaluate coaches anonymously. The link can either be placed within an email or posted directly on a league or organization’s Web site. The questions hit all the key coaching areas, such as safety, sportsmanship and how well they teach skills, among others.
 
Coaches can log on and see how parents rated them. While the parents’ answers are confidential, coaches can see their average scores in each category.
 
“The parents like it since they can leave a rating without the possibility of being recognized by the coach,” said Mellinger. “We feel we get a better review, which we can use as a tool to retain the good coaches and not invite back the ones with problems. We constantly remind our coaches that coaching is a privilege and not a right.”
 
In the past Glynn County has been forced to remove coaches for infractions or for having a prior criminal history. But with NAYS’ protective measures and evaluation system in place, they now have the peace of mind in knowing that those potential individuals are unlikely to make it past their screening process.
 
“NAYS has done a tremendous job in helping organizations become a better program through their management and rating systems,” said Mellinger. “The way they help us in these areas is growing each and every day. Every program has that one coach who seems not to get the big picture but we feel we would have a lot more of those type coaches had we not had this type of program in place for us and the parents to use.”

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