Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany provides excellent sports programming

3/29/2011

To Spangdahlem Air Force Base, Youth Sports, their volunteer coaches and parents provide the solid foundation of their youth sports program. “Volunteers, whether they are coaches or team parents, are the backbone of our youth sports program,” said Marjorie Egger, youth sports director of Spangdahlem Air Force Base, Germany. “Without our volunteers, our program would not exist.”

Spangdahlem Youth Sports is one of the five youth sports programs to receive the Excellence in Youth Sports Award in 2010. (Pictured are, from left, Condredge Fisher, Dave Lara, Marjorie Egger, Annette McLamb and Colonel Patrick A. Dunn.)

The staff constantly strives to promote and reward volunteerism because both the program and children benefit from the vast experience of its volunteers. In fact, the stellar reputation of Spangdahlem Youth Sports continually attracts people that want to get involved. 

Egger believes that one key to their program’s success is providing each person interested in getting involved with the opportunity to obtain free training utilizing NAYS’ courses.

For instance, each volunteer coach must receive certification through the National Youth Sports Coaches Association (NYSCA), which provides a thorough education on topics such as the psychology of coaching youth sports, communication, child abuse prevention, injury prevention, nutrition and hydration, as well as skills and drills specifically applicable to the sport that the coach is teaching.  

Also, parents must attend a Parents Association for Youth Sports (PAYS) meeting/orientation and agree to uphold the Parents Code of Ethics outlining their role and responsibilities as a youth sport parent. 

The staff at Spangdahlem Youth Sports advises everyone involved in their program that the sport is recreational in nature and that emphasis is put on fun and skill development, not competition. 

Egger finds that the NAYS National Standards for Youth Sports supplement the required guidelines from the Air Force Youth Sports & Fitness operational procedures. “NAYS’ standards for youth sports have made the process easier,” she said. “We have the same goals, objectives and standards, so why re-invent the wheel?”
 
ACCOUNTABILITY
 
Still, every person involved in the program must be held accountable for their actions and uphold the program’s philosophy of fun and fundamentals. For example, the Spangdahlem Youth Sports staff provides volunteer coaches with guidance throughout the season and conducts informal feedbacks on a regular basis.

Also, the staff spends time with the volunteer coaches and parents to reinforce the values and goals of the program. “The staff shares their observations with the coaches, and the coaches share their experience with the staff,” said Egger. “Two-way communication is important. If you wait until the end of the season to get feedback, it may be too late to salvage a successful experience for all. Feedback from parents provides us with another resource to create a quality youth sports program.”

She finds that working with the parents creates an opportunity for the children to have a wonderful experience.
“There are times parents see things that we as staff do not,” she said. “The input from parents to solve a problem or improve the program is a win-win.”

Emphasis is put on training and education because the adults involved in the program lead by example for the children. “In addition to providing the children participating in our program with fundamental sports skills and fun, we want them to become good sportsmen,” said Egger. 

At the end of each season, one player from every team is presented with a special Sportsmanship Achievement Medal as chosen by the team’s coaches. By recognizing a player that consistently displays the tenants of good sportsmanship, other players in the program can strive to incorporate those qualities into their actions.

“By awarding a sportsmanship medal, it encourages the children to do, and be, their very best,” said Egger.
Although Spangdahlem Youth Sports is located in an isolated region of Germany, the program encourages maximum participation from the population. “Being involved with other local communities provides our youth, parents and coaches with a wonderful experience crossing into the local cultures,” Egger said. 

They work with various organizations within the local community to provide outside activities. For instance, they have played in the Soccer International Tournament, hosted basketball games with the local Trier and baseball games with the International School of Luxembourg.

According to Egger, “These experiences give them an opportunity to build lifetime friendships. In the end, everyone recognizes that they are more alike than different. We are looking to continue reaching out to our local community and establish new relationships in the future.”

She also said that Spangdahlem Youth Sports is planning to provide specialty sports camps and continue to expand their Start Smart program, which offers motor skill development for children ages three to five.

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