Earlier this year Adam Magun, executive director of the Jupiter-Tequesta Athletic Association (JTAA), was speaking to a father who was new to the organization and volunteering to coach youth basketball for the first time.
He had been required to complete the National Alliance for Youth Sports’ (NAYS) coach training before being granted a team, a long-standing JTAA policy that helps ensure quality experiences for its participants and gives valuable management tools to the association.
“He commented how great it was to get the training through the NAYS program,” says Magun. “He mentioned that not only did he appreciate it as a coach, but he appreciated it as a parent.”
The JTAA has been one of the nation’s premier – and most successful – volunteer-based organizations since its inception in 1967. Nearly 7,000 children participate in 16 different sports, along with roughly 2,000 volunteers who handle everything from coaching to fulfilling board member responsibilities, among others.
And mandatory coach training has been as much a program fixture in recent years as grass-stained uniforms and smiling young faces.
"Mandatory trainings for our coaches have been a big asset for our program and knowing we are putting well-prepared coaches on the fields to teach the kids is not only reassuring to us as administrators but to the families as well," Magun says. "They have the peace of mind that they are getting a coach with specialized training."
Accompanying the training is a wealth of additional free resources – most notably online trainings for concussion awareness, protecting against abuse, coaching children with mental health challenges and bullying prevention, which JTAA had a hand in developing.
The more trained volunteer coaches are, and the more effective they are at handling those issues, the better the program looks in the public’s eye. That translates to a sparkling community image, more participants, and more people willing to lend a hand and be a part of something special.
Volunteers involved in the JTAA programs don’t waver from the end goal: providing kids with sports experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives for all the right reasons.
“The goal is to have the young athletes of today enjoy sports and continue to play multiple sports through childhood and into their adult life,” Magun says. “You have to do it right. You have to be a good communicator with the parents; you have to be structured; you have to have good policies and procedures; but the bottom line is the kids have to be the No. 1 focus. It can’t be about the parents; it can’t be about anybody else but the kids.”
Youth sports these days requires a concerted effort on all sides to make those experiences rewarding for kids. Through the training, parents receive that important foundation of what youth sports is all about and that helps set a positive tone at the season’s beginning.
Plus, the more aware parents are of their responsibilities, the less likely the chance of verbal disputes and physical altercations disrupting games and putting the program under the media’s glare for all the wrong reasons.
Operating with that child-first mindset – always keeping the kids front and center – made the decision to go to mandatory coach and parent training an easy one.
“There is nothing wrong with mandating the training, you have to do what is best for the children participating,” Magun says. “If coaches understand the benefits of the training and understand the positive impact it has on the organization they will continue with the trainings and the positive benefits far outweigh the slight ‘inconvenience’ of taking the training.”
The trainings, along with the premium the organization places on communication, have enabled the programs to flourish.
Assistant coaches and parents interested in taking on a coaching role see the support coaches receive during the season and are more willing to step forward. Plus, the constant flow of communication, and season-long contact with its coaches, helps prevent a lot of time-consuming problems from ever appearing.
“It makes a new volunteer feel comfortable and gets them over that initial apprehension some have about committing to coach,” says Josh Slaybaugh, JTAA’s president, who got started in the program when he volunteered to coach seven years ago. “Our sports programs strive to have a lot of communication with the parents. We also try to make it easy for the coaches to manage their team and want our coaches to feel like they have someone propping them up, giving them additional training and whatever assistance it might take to help them be successful.”
JTAA has also integrated with the NAYS website for its coach and parent sign-ups, helping organize the process without creating headaches for volunteers.
“Being able to integrate the NAYS site with our current registration platform has given us the ability to mandate the training without severely impacting the workload of our volunteers,” Magun says. “We were able to mandate that every coach be trained before they could register as a coach, and all verification is done on the front end of volunteer registration, which makes it very manageable.”
In the end, every decision comes down to weighing what is in the best interests of the children.
“Youth recreational sports should be fun,” says Slaybaugh. “Especially in the younger age groups, we want to focus more on team building, skill development, and having a good time rather than tallying up wins and losses. We want our volunteer coaches to give the kids proper instruction, so players can have the kinds of successes that keep them engaged and coming back season after season. Whether that’s teaching a player how to catch a ball or pass a puck, it comes down to having good instruction and training for our coaches and the NAYS training helps."JTAA Coaches Parents Training
National Alliance for Youth Sports, Inc
2050 Vista Parkway
West Palm Beach, Florida 33411
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